This is the fourth and final article in a four-part series about designing friendly NPCs that the heroes in your game will care about. Part one discusses the importance of NPCs who listen. Part two addresses how adding character flaws to your NPCs makes them stronger, more likable characters. Part three looks at the value of giving your NPCs a few quirks. In this part, we will talk about how goals can shape the character.
A person who works towards his or her goals is a person with a future worth looking forward to – the same is true for the characters we create in our games.
If you have been following this series from the beginning, you might now have a mental stable full of well-crafted, diverse, memorable NPCs to ally with the heroes in you home campaign. You are ready to impress your players with these characters, but you need to seal the deal on player investment in these NPCs. This is where developing goals for your characters comes into play.
A person with a plan can be a powerful thing. We all know that a certain level of ambition is a good thing, and we frequently are drawn to others in our lives who have a plan for the future. Exploit this trait with your players.
The local baron wishes to end the constant border squabbles that prevent the nobles from rallying to a greater cause. The broad-shouldered ship captain wants to be known as the best captain ever to sail the eastern sea. The famed mercenary commander tries to negotiate contracts that let him pit his army against the monsters that roam the land. Each of these characters has at least one goal he or she is working towards.
Assigning goals to your friendly NPCs is not enough, however. For the goals to be useful in defining the character, you need to keep in mind the following:
- The heroes must know about the goal – secret goals, for all intents and purposes, do not exist.
- The goal must align with the goals of he heroes. They have no reason to bond with someone with whom they expect to eventually be at odds.
- The heroes must actively help the character in his or her quest to achieve the goal. Bonding occurs when the characters work together.
A side benefit of establishing goals for your helpful NPCs is that it is probably the single biggest action to can take t flesh out your NPC’s personality. As old goals are met, new ones will naturally rise to take their place. This makes writing and role-playing the character a breeze. Has the character met all of his or her goals, and there is no clear direction for more? It may be time to retire this NPC, since he or she is no longer growing in a believable way.
What goals do the heroes’ allies have in your game? How have the heroes helped them to work towards these goals? Are there any goals you regret assigning to your NPCs?
Establishing character goals is a great tool for increasing PC buy-in on your character. Next week, we will dissect one NPC in detail and look at how well, or poorly, he meets all of the design ideas we have covered so far. With that character, we will also cover a few more tips for establishing the bond between the heroes and the NPCs you control.