Friday, 4 October 2019

Review: Feed Me Games

If you've been around Twitter or the right parts of Facebook or other social media, you will have noticed mention of a new gaming site - Feed Me Games.

Essentially, it aims to pull together games of all kinds (roleplayers, wargamers, boardgamers) onto one social media site, free from spam, harassment and general idiocy. Since I fit all three of the first categories (and hopefully none of the second three :D), I signed up - you can find me there, predictably enough, as TroubleAtTheMill.

What do I think?

Mostly, I think it suffers from not having hit critical mass yet - starting this kind of thing is always difficult, as without enough people interacting, it won't take off. Witness Google+, which, with a much less laudable and focussed aim and a much bigger company behind it, never really took off, and ditto Google Wave (which I think was criminally underused and absolutely brilliant, and I wish Google had kept it going, but that's by the by). Traffic is slowly ramping up - my D&D 5E discussion group is acquiring a half dozen or so members a day.

It's kind of a bit of everything - it looks and feels as if it's derived from Facebook, with a front page news feed of all your interesting stuff, plus groups, personal blogs, messages and events - and ads, which might make it the one social media site on which I wouldn't bitch about ads, because they're actually relevant. It's not perfect, and I think jaytee and his partner are well aware of that - there are always going to be teething problems (trust me, I'm a web developer) with a site like this - but what there is for the most part clean, pretty robust, properly secure and usable.

I know there's already plenty of places for us gamers to be social - Twitter, Facebook, Blogger etc. I'm loath to move lock stock and barrel to  FMG (hell, I'm damn proud of my page view count here!), but I do think it has the potential to be a good home for discussions, and for cross-pollination between the various strands of the gaming hobby. I certainly intend to give it my support, and I'd like to encourage folks reading this to do so as well: if enough of us do, it has the potential to be a really good place.

[Note: this is going to be one of the very few posts I cross-post verbatim to Trouble At T'Mill]

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Creating NPCs

An NPC. Can't tell you much more
about her because my players may
read this blog :D
Inspired by a video from Cody on Taking 20, on six questions to ask when creating characters, as well as some of the prompts provided when creating characters on WorldAnvil, I was made to think about a similar set of questions when fleshing out an NPC, particularly one around whom campaign arcs revolve.

I don't know about you, but my best NPCs come by taking a trope or a single question (the WorldAnvil Discord channel prompts can be very good for that), and then walking with it. TVTropes can be great for this, or even just fastening on a character from a TV show, movie or book that appeals, and working from that.

The trick, though, is to delve a bit deeper and flesh them out to something beyond that - I jokingly refer to this as 'filing off the serial numbers': essentially, taking the trope and making it not just a generic example of the type, or equally taking the character and making it not instantly recognisable as the source character. So - what questions do I ask myself?

What are their short term and long term goals?

The long term goal has the potential to inform a campaign arc - so, for example, it could be revenge, or getting their family's honour back, or removing someone off the throne, or... you get the idea. But their short term goal is going to tell you what happens next. This is the one you keep revising as you go, as a set of steps (sometimes somewhat wayward ones) on the way to their long term goals.

Who or what are they loyal to and why?

This is a great one - particularly if it conflicts with their goals. For example, consider a master thief whose long term goal is to get rich enough to pay off some loanshark, and is loyal to someone who they could rob for a sizeable chunk of the money. Do they? Or the follower of an evil cult, from a family that teaches all of its members to value family loyalty above all else, and one of whom runs the city they're preying on. And there may be more than one answer, of course.
This can lead to some great role-play, as, say, if the players learn enough to know there's a potential conflict, they can work to put the NPC in a position where they have to face it and make a choice. And if they're a villain, and you're a fan of redemption arcs (me, I love me a good redemption story)...
Speaking of family...

Who are (or were) their parents?

I confess to borrowing this one from Cody, because he's dead right. Parents play a huge part in making a character who and what they are, by their presence or absence and their behaviour.

What's their attitude to people who are of no immediate use or interest to them?

Always a fun one - it's said you can tell a lot about a person by how they deal with this kind of person. Cody's question for PCs is 'are they merciful?': this is kind of stretching things a bit further. All manner of answers, too - they could just ignore them, they could be very nice just in case they need support later...

What differs between their inward and outward behaviour and demeanour?

After you've answered the above, you'll have a better shot at this one: not everyone's outward demeanour matches what's going on in their head. Is there a conflict? Do they (say) hate having to be nice to people? Do they hate having to be nasty to people?

What do they look like? Who's playing them in the movie of the campaign?

This one, I admit, doesn't work for everyone. I'm a very visual person, though, and I find it really helps me to portray the character if I can 'see' them in my mind's eye. (A little Google and photo editing work means you can show that to the players as well). This also gives you the opportunity to fake out the players if you need to - if the character looks like X from TV show Y, that doesn't mean they'll necessarily act like them.

Anyway - there's a bunch of questions to ask when creating an NPC. Thoughts, further suggestions and comments welcome.