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Old 12-24-2015, 11:37 AM   #21
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Default Re: How to be a Likable character

This isn't just about being likable, but about the players giving a hoot about an NPC. The ways to do this are, in my experience:
  • Be memorable. Either have a memorable trait, or do something memorable.
  • Have a life. NPCs need to exist outside the needs of the PCs.
  • Show up again. Reusing an NPC makes him seem more real and more interesting.
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Old 12-26-2015, 05:48 PM   #22
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Re: How to be a Likable character

Originally Posted by Mister Negative View Post
For my group, a Likable character is the one that functions the least like a player hook.
Yes! I've found this, too. If the NPC is clearly a plot device, macguffin, or GM mouthpiece, then the players will simply look right through them, in order to see the underlying plot device, macguffin, or GM communique.

The NPCs that get taken up as de-facto "mascots" in our group are almost always semi-irrelevant, non-theatening, non-PC-upstaging types who also happen to be nice.

Originally Posted by khorboth View Post
The best method I've found is to have frequent small doses. The quartermaster left a note in your pack. The cook made your favorite meal. The waif is making eyes at you again. Little single sentence reminders that the person is there will keep the NPC in mind, reinforcing their reality to the players. I've had the PCs get attached to even really nasty folk this way because they've become a real person to the players.
Yes! I've found that if the NPC just keeps showing up, session after session, as an expected and mildly helpful piece of the background furniture, then when the plot eventually puts them center stage, the players suddenly find that they care a lot about them.
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Old 12-26-2015, 06:15 PM   #23
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Medford, MA
Default Re: How to be a Likable character

Originally Posted by Joe View Post
The NPCs that get taken up as de-facto "mascots" in our group are almost always semi-irrelevant, non-theatening, non-PC-upstaging types who also happen to be nice.
I was running a GURPS Traveller: ISW campaign and the captain of the ship was an NPC. She was relevant, she was more competent and experienced that most of the PCs, she was the boss of the PCs...she was not mean, but not overly nice...more professional, she was more or less a post device/GM mouthpiece to get the campaign started. She is the exact type that by the guidelines most people are giving the Players should not like.

But they liked her.

Why? Maybe it was because they figured out that my plan was to kill her off in the first season leaving the players to be the masters of their own destiny and they were feeling contrary. They did everything in their power to save the super strong and competent boss NPC of theirs from dying. Maybe they wanted to know more about her mysteries...maybe the time she was in a coma (I came so close!) they saw the power struggle between the do-gooder First Mate and the do-badder Comms Officer and decided having her around was preferable. I don't know. All I know is that the NPC that was not made to have the players attach to...they attached to and wouldn't let me kill her.

So...really...I think what makes a likable NPC will be particular to the players in question. You never know!
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Old 12-27-2015, 11:20 AM   #24
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Bristol
Default Re: How to be a Likable character

You can be arrested or fined for being mean/dangerous to NPC.

NPC has hench men?

Or they are bad roleplayers and penalised for not being nice.
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Old 12-27-2015, 01:26 PM   #25
Join Date: Dec 2006
Default Re: How to be a Likable character

This has been a great thread about how to (try to at least since people are hard to predict) establish fun, memorable, and looked npcs.

I have had some good success with memorable npcs, some so memorable that they were later spooled up into full pcs (we share gming duties). The hardest one is making a memorable villain that the pcs want to keep around.

For a memorable npc the things I have worked with;
1. Make them immediately affable, but not overeager.
2. Make them useful - they don't have to exceed the pcs in any category to be useful, an alchemist who does not compare to the party healer in any way can still be a great ally if they just sell them a few potions at a discount. One of Kals favoured npcs that he turned into an ally was an undead gnome lawyer named nomo who was good at reading and writing contracts as well as managing investments and properties.
3. Make them interact with pc advantages and disadvantages; sentient spider in the party with an arachnophobe, pretty member of the lech's preferred gender, loyal steadfast individual who wants to learn from the person with charisma.
4. Give them a story (this can come after they start getting some repeat face time) they should have their own take, there own desires, and their own stuff going on, it should not intrude on the pcs, but it should give them the opportunity to butt in if they so desire. (Is make it an optional sidequest hook rather than a main quest hook).

For villains the party will want to encounter again;
1. Have them play to party disadvantages (sentient spider again).
2. Have them offer (and continue to offer) reasonable outs when fought (ie don't have them demand everything the party has, have them demand an enchanted weapon and 5 healing potions- it's still a robbery out ransom, but it's far more reasonable).
3. Have then still to main and disable instead of kill, out if like us cheap have them identify where they would like their body brought if they fail and ask the pcs the same question.
4. Have them talk and be affable, even if their ultimate goal is to get something from the pcs against their will or delay them.
5. If things are going bad have them surrender with conditions
6. Give them a story that does not make them 'evil', but also does not make them misguided. They know what they are doing and they don't care- their ways or needs are greater than the damage they cause.
7. No elaborate schemes; a villain might have plans, they may even be elaborate, but they should be more of a grocery list then a step by step program.

Finally for both groups- make them smart (within their iq limits). They should never do anything obviously dumb, if a secondary character/villian in a TV show or movie did it, ever, your should probably avoid having an npc/villian you want to be memorable and liked do it.
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Old 12-27-2015, 02:18 PM   #26
Join Date: Feb 2009
Default Re: How to be a Likable character

Players may however instantly latch onto the notion that a particular NPC is Evil with a Capital E, whether or not that is the case 'must not give Jaffar the Magic Wishstar!'

Or somehow decide that the evil villains are actually just people who need to be helped 'Hello evil goblins that are destroying the environment, would you like to learn how to make environmentally friendly nuclear reactors?'

oh yes, and Nomo the Lawin' Gnome is awesome

One thing that can make people like NPCs is NPCs that they can intelligently discourse with and will help them out with advice and such . . . . this is one of the things Nomo is great at, he is a very good adviser. Often times the PCs (and players) can use some help and advice in figuring things out, and a NPC who understands how the world works (being controlled by the DM who understands how the world works) can help them get a handle on things.

Edit - also discernible motives are good, especially for employers, if players and characters are supposed to like them . . . if the party can't see why they were hired for a gig, or understand why the NPC is doing something, then chances are good the assumption will be 'because they are an idiot' or 'because they are evil'.

Giving people discernible motivates also gives a starting point from which to interact with them . . . for instance, goblins were wrecking the environment because they wanted to make alchemical items. Great, so we know that we can talk to them about alchemy, and if we can help them at making alchemical items they probably would play ball etc.

Last edited by Kalzazz; 12-27-2015 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 12-27-2015, 02:25 PM   #27
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: New Zealand.
Default Re: How to be a Likable character

Humor is a great tool to if you can pull it off. If not swipe a character or two from terry pratchett if your players haven't read his works. But the lesson gained from his characterizations is don't be afraid of caricature.


Likeable scum bag
Have a rich powerful A******e type harass the pcs. The scumbag then swipes the harassers signature gear (Brand-name (tm) crossbow, red oak stock, burlie action engraving by Alphonso of Secy etc) and attacks it with wood saw so it becomes unrecognizable.
Waiting for inspiration to strike......
And spending too much time thinking about farming for RPGs
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Old 01-04-2016, 10:07 AM   #28
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Default Re: How to be a Likable character

I've had regular success with NPCs who – despite not being expensive Allies – consistently aid the PCs by competently tackling families of tasks the players acknowledge as essential but boring, and thus haven't positioned their PCs to handle. In my experience, such an NPC needs to be weak at classic adventuring tasks (fighting, sneaking, investigating, etc.), which serves two purposes: (1) not invading the PCs' niches and (2) balancing the benefits of "free Ally" with the drawbacks of "free Dependent." The classic example is the behind-the-scenes fixer who provides false IDs and arranges transportation, but who's worthless in action scenes and sometimes gets threatened or kidnapped. Another is the person who shares the same enemies as the PCs and faces the same threats, but who isn't as capable and so needs their assistance . . . yet who has skills or knowledge that the PCs lack and thus is worth protecting.
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Old 01-06-2016, 06:12 AM   #29
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Default Re: How to be a Likable character

Originally Posted by ArchonShiva View Post
Just the same, House of Cards tells us that the best way to make someone like you more is to ask them for a favour, not to offer one.
This also seems to be true in real life.

Originally Posted by ArchonShiva View Post
It is generally not about traits on a character sheet, but about actions and interactions (although making them pretty girls works with some groups). Make the players feel like the NPC needs them, and you can appeal to their "parenting" instincts.
Though some players may have negative reactions to any NPCs showing signs of being 'escort mission' bait.
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Old 01-06-2016, 06:27 AM   #30
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Location: Iceland*
Default Re: How to be a Likable character

For me, players respond very differently to different types of NPCs and their traits. Some like NPCs that need their help and protection; whereas others but grudgingly accept having to take care of 'useless' NPCs.

Some players resent competent NPCs doing cool stuff around them, preferring that their PCs have a monopoly on that, whereas other players are primarily interested in experts, champions and heroes; variously wanting to befriend such people, get training from them, improve their reputations by associating with them or even work hard to prove themselves better than them at something.

This can be used in a positive way, as I can predict to some extent which player and thus PC is likely to be interested in a given NPC. I can introduce a legendary Master of Defence to pique the interest of the player whose PC wants to master all weapons and be acknowledged as the greatest warrior in the land. I can introduce a bumbling, reckless and adventurous lad of noble blood to appeal to those who like saving NPCs as well as those who like developing powerful allies*.

Other players appreciate NPCs who have a connection to their backstories or goals, such as being the son of an old enemy or a great-nephew of the PC himself.** Some like NPCs that are initially hard to impress, but speak volumes about the awesomeness of the PC once he has managed to perform up to their standards. Others like villages of NPCs that will cheer them on sight, due to the strength of their already-earned Reputations.

Most of my players seem to share an appreciation for two things. First, all of them will adopt some NPCs as 'theirs', for one reason or another, and afterwards, will look with favour upon all things that improve the lot of that NPC and with deadly disfavour upon any threats to him or her. Second, wit and a sense of humour are traits that all of my players tend to like in NPCs and hugely increase the odds that they'll remember them and like them.

*His father is quite thankful to the knight who takes him as a squire and keeps him out of trouble.
**The PC spent a century in Hell before starting play.
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!
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npc design, npcs

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