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Novawurmson
2013-06-26, 01:36 PM
Started totaling up NPCs I've made for my next game. Here are some stats:

Total NPCs: 47

Total good NPCs: 9 (19%)
Total neutral NPCs: 16 (34%)
Total evil NPCs: 22 (47%)

Total lawful NPCs: 15 (32%)
Total neutral NPCs: 22 (47%)
Total chaotic NPCs: 10 (21%)

I've still got more NPCs in mind that I don't have write-ups for, too, so I'll probably make a few of them good and maybe chaotic. I'm almost a little embarrassed at how unprepared I was for most of my previous campaigns (sans Rise of the Runelords, where a lot of it was done for me). I'm not sure if I've ever had even a dozen NPCs created for a campaign before.

How prepared are you normally before starting a campaign? Just a few names on a scrap of paper? A whole book written?

Autolykos
2013-06-26, 04:11 PM
I usually have complete stats and some notes on history and motivations for the main NPCs (usually not more than a dozen), as well as maps for the places the players are likely to visit, and stats/equipment for some generic mook types that will probably appear. Everything else, I'll improvise on the fly. I've usually found that adding more detail (either in width or depth) is a waste of time as my players are likely to do lots of unexpected stuff anyway, and having that stuff lying around unused would tempt me into railroading them or recycling it at inappropriate moments.

thethird
2013-06-26, 04:13 PM
I jump at my campaign blindly, I only set more or less the char concepts of the big players. From then I built just before each session, this way I have margin to adapt to party spontaneity/derailment.

Barsoom
2013-06-26, 04:16 PM
You made 47 NPCs before the campaign even started? And are making more? That's ... wow, I have no words. I made ... two.

Emmerask
2013-06-26, 04:30 PM
How prepared are you normally before starting a campaign? Just a few names on a scrap of paper? A whole book written?

As far as npcs go I only have the few most important ones with names and motives (no stats at all).

The rest however is quite extensive, from history to organizations to current politics to places... there is a lot of notes... I think my last campaign had about 50 pages at the start (so a very small book)^^.

In general I like to run none pc centric sandbox campaigns... and for that stuff has to be going on in the world. So it is good to know what the situation is and where it happens etc.

Erik Vale
2013-06-26, 05:33 PM
I have:
Semi-Detailed area map [regional and local].
Generic Enemies. [though only a few given world fluff and it being a heroes game]
Enemies/friendlies/importants for this adventure.
a good idea for the next adventure.
A good idea of what's happening in the sorrounding area.
A few a*s-pull save your life characters, mostly because making characters and getting them right for a heroes game can be a session of work in and of itself for some of the less experienced players.

Mastikator
2013-06-26, 06:36 PM
I usually prepare a lot, but then rarely ever (get to) follow the preparations.

Emmerask
2013-06-26, 06:43 PM
Well on the bright side you can use the never done dungeon/encounter/riddle/etc at another time... at least thats what Im telling myself though my file folder of unused stuff keeps getting bigger :smallbiggrin:

(likely enough to fill an entire 1 year campaign by now ^^)

Water_Bear
2013-06-26, 06:47 PM
In a game system where the pregenerated NPCs/monsters are any good, or the rules are fairly light, I only make the handful of important NPCs and focus my prep on setting information. In heavier systems with worse pregens I have to do the grunt-work of making all the generic NPCs myself beforehand which takes a while. I don't think I've ever made more than twenty NPCs for a game, and usually fewer than ten, although I always have at least three or four statblocks for the important ones. Luckily I

valadil
2013-06-26, 07:41 PM
Five to ten NPCs is plenty for me. I'm not a great actor and I don't do well when I switch between characters in rapid succession. I play the NPC better if I can focus on one each session.

That said I plan on more room for NPCs. I generally know what groups are in the campaign. Even if I don't name the NPCs in the group I have a rough org chart in my head spelling out what the factions and numbers are. That's something I fill in as I go.

I have lots of plot ideas written down, but none are in stone. I don't run games often, but I log all my ideas constantly. This means that when I do run a game I've got several years worth of collected ideas. If even a quarter of them are suitable for this game that gives me plenty of material.

Nothing is statted until the PCs are near it. I never know how long it'll take to get somewhere.

If I'm using an existing setting I'll also have a decent collection of bookmarks ready. This map (http://files.sagotsky.com/forgotten_realms_map.png) came in super handy last time I ran FR. Whomever created that file did something brilliant. Look at the scale at the bottom. Measure it in your image editor of choice. 960 miles equals 960 pixels. Now I can get accurate distances for all sorts of travel.

Issabella
2013-06-26, 08:08 PM
New setting, still being worked on, I have not started yet.

20 pages of geographic notes
10 pages on god
10 pages of very loose history
1 page of caimpaign rules (house rules)
15 NPC's so far.

Kane0
2013-06-26, 08:46 PM
I take my idea, apply major NPCs/events, familiarize myself with locations I'm thinking of and jump in. Anything beyond that is usually at least a little on the fly unless I want to plan something ahead, like a specific encounter, plot point or things like that. I have to stop every once and a while to think but for me it's more fun to improvise than meticulously pre-package everything. And my players like the spontaneity too, as long as I'm consistent.

Edit: As a result, most social and combat encounters I run are geared towards fun, not rules. We all operate on the same basic rules but I have a bad habit of tweaking numbers as the situation presents itself. Rolls stay the same once set, but things like saves and HP are set on the fly (but not changed once set of course). My players don't mind since it makes the easy ones more challenging and stops them from just picking up the Monster Manual and figuring out too much.

For example, This (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=289322) is enough for me to sit down with my group, have them roll up characters and have an afternoon session. I may not have the answer to everything asked but I feel that I have enough to work with.

My father on the other hand prepares everything. He will not be content to start a campaign until he has got NPCs fully statted out from every major location in the gameworld or portion of the plot as well as at least a few dozen re-usable ones as well as maps, economics, politics and other details that are unlikely to come up more than once in the entire game. I'm just thankful that he is so prepared he doesn't fall into railroad problems.

So i guess the two of us are pretty much opposite, but we have some common players between our groups and they like both our DMing. I guess we do something right.

zorenathres
2013-06-26, 09:13 PM
I usually prepare a lot, but then rarely ever (get to) follow the preparations.
/\
same for me, but its fun (for me) to design bad guys & settings in my spare time... if some of it gets to the table, so be it.

Knaight
2013-06-26, 10:31 PM
It depends on the game. For anything well within the "adventure" category I'm probably just going to wing it entirely, for a more detailed game focused on intrigue I might make a quick one page character/organization web with names, relationships, and goals listed. Generally the web contains 8 to 15 characters or groups, and this often works out fairly well.

That said: I play lightweight systems, I can do mental math quickly, and I'm good at holding information in my head. Without these factors the preparation time would likely skyrocket.

Ozfer
2013-06-26, 11:55 PM
I find some way to get all the unrelated PC's in the same place at the same time, then I wright one adventure at a time, slowly forming a long-term plan.

Totally Guy
2013-06-27, 03:00 AM
I present to you some actual prep for a game to show how much info I developed.

We started with the "Big Picture", that is the overall concept. In this case it overlapped with the player character concepts. A giant and his friend face persecution in a village that is threatened from within and from outside.

Umfredo - an outcast giant
Umfredo has three strong Beliefs that motivate him.
B1: My Throne of Trees has been stolen by the men of Lanark - I will reclaim it.
B2: The source of my brethren's madness is the men of this town who visited. I will find a cure.
B3: Leod's problems with the townsfolk will persist as long as I am seen to be his friend. I will turn my back on him for his own good.

Leod - the local blacksmith's son
B1: I will protect my parents from the bullying townsfolk who threaten them.
B2: I will find a way to make the mayor and town accept Umfredo into the community.
B3: The town is crippled until the witch's curse is lifted. I will track her down and find a way to break it.

Some of the beliefs details were added in later in the process. Armed with the big picture, and the character concepts I developed the following situation:

Backstory to tell the players:

Many years ago a giant, Umfredo's Father, Balfredo, sat upon the Throne of Trees (literally four trees grown into the right shape) in the mining town of Lanark. The humans under him disrespected his leadership. He was king in name only. The only thing he really had was a seat in the centre of the town. When the men refused to give him the iron of the town for one of his personal projects he left peacefully.

Three years ago, Mayor Mallowick evicted the witch Mave from Lanark. And since that time the town has fallen under a curse. The area around the town of Lanark grew into a jungle in contrast to the plains and fields of the past. The regular crops failed and the people became hungry. In addition to this a sickness took folks of the town far more regularly. With these changes the townsfolk had to adapt to picking the fruits from the bizarre jungle trees. But then "the monster" showed up regularly preys upon the scavengers of the town.

Since the curse hit, a cult has risen within Lanark. They worship a fertility goddess.

In the halls of the Giants Under The Hill to the South some human strangers appeared to talk about relations with their town but since their visit the the majority of the giants suffered a madness, an erratic rage that came on in bursts. It was after this event that Umfredo left to investigate Lanark.

Leod, his father Gerard the blacksmith and a small girl called Tilly were attacked by the monster! Rather than be outright killed, Gerard was merely poisoned by the beast and has been bedridden. During this attack Leod could have been killed but Umfredo stepped in and scared the beast away. Unfortunately Tilly told the town about the stray giant in jungle.

Playable Characters:
Umfredo the Giant
Leod the Blacksmith's Son

The Villains:
Mayor Mallowick: Use stats for the Mayor from the book.
I will organise the town to kill Umfredo, the giant that stalks us.
I need swords from the smithy! Leod will have to work while his father is ill.
The witch, Mave, must never return to town. In that case I'll have her killed.

Mave the Witch: Use stats for the Evil Wizard from the book.
The curse is not evil magic, the new plants are valuable for alchemical study.
B'hemah is my pet. He will continue to protect me. Despite the attacks.
The mayor is my sworn enemy. My price is his death.

The Monster: Use stats for B'hemah from the book.

Kareg the Alchemist: Use the stats for the cult leader from the book but replace blacksmith skills with alchemy ones.
My possession potion was a failure against the giants. The missing ingredient is the poison within Gerard's body! I will use the cult to get it.
I will use Umfredo's acceptance in the town in my plan to usurp the mayor.
The curse must continue as I have a bounty of new ingredients from it.

Gigos the Giant King: Use the giant from the book.
I will wait patiently for the mines of lanark to be empty before attacking and seizing the iron.
I will attack Lanark as soon as I hear news of Umfredo whether it's good or bad. (Madness)
I will have a sword forged fit for the king of giants.

Any one of these could emerge to be the actual big bad!

Setting Spectacle:
The Throne of Trees: Four trees shaped into a throne. The towns has changed into an exotic flower bed that looks lovely in the town square. It faces the mayors house.

The Curse: Mave cast her spell upon the Throne of Trees making it the centre of curse. The curse could broken by burning the throne. Mave will suggest burning the Mayor upon the throne is the solution but really she just wants the mayor dead if her work will be undone. Mave will also suggest that the normal crops failed because she wasn't there to cast her growth spell as she used to do and the town was getting sick was just because of eating odd fruit or maybe mosquito bites.

The Monster: To most characters describe a terrifying stone skinned beast. To Umfredo describe it as a particularly tough wingless turkey-like creature.

Usable events that oppose the character's motivations:
Townsfolk bully Leod and family wanting weapons for fighting the giant.
The monster attacks someone.
Cult tries to seize Leod's poisoned father or the monster's body (if it's been killed somehow).
Demonstrate famine or illness from the jungle plants.
Townsfolk and Mayor rally against Umfredo.
Kareg approaches Umfredo, potentially with a new possession potion.



In play the area I wished I'd had thought about prior was how the madness of the giants would manifest. That was my weak link.

Hyena
2013-06-27, 03:16 AM
My preparations consist of playing RPGs for inspiration an only that.

Samshiir
2013-06-27, 12:32 PM
When I DM, I use characters from the players in my past games as NPC's, as well as my own characters. By doing this, I don't have to develop a personality because I already know it, and I know their statblock well enough to create at a moments notice. I actually do this so much that I create cameos for a lot of my favorite characters, but the group never really interacts with them and never realize that the NPC is a fully fleshed out character that belongs to an actual player. This doesn't bother me any, because developing the character only required me to think back to a previous game.

Barsoom
2013-06-27, 12:52 PM
When I DM, I use characters from the players in my past games as NPC's, as well as my own characters. By doing this, I don't have to develop a personality because I already know it, and I know their statblock well enough to create at a moments notice. I actually do this so much that I create cameos for a lot of my favorite characters, but the group never really interacts with them and never realize that the NPC is a fully fleshed out character that belongs to an actual player. This doesn't bother me any, because developing the character only required me to think back to a previous game.

I find the bolded part to be a bit dangerous, since there's danger of a DM being over-attached to an NPC. What if the PCs suddenly decide to be really mean to your old character? If it comes to that, I'd rather they beat up and rob some nobleman I statted up in 10 minutes, than beat up and rob Duke Eric Roona, an aging Cavalier and my old PC, whom I was playing for two years.

Knaight
2013-06-27, 09:37 PM
I find the bolded part to be a bit dangerous, since there's danger of a DM being over-attached to an NPC. What if the PCs suddenly decide to be really mean to your old character? If it comes to that, I'd rather they beat up and rob some nobleman I statted up in 10 minutes, than beat up and rob Duke Eric Roona, an aging Cavalier and my old PC, whom I was playing for two years.

I could see this being a problem, but for many GMs it really wouldn't be, and for others the same thing happens with pet NPCs to just as high a degree. Speaking personally, I have NPCs that I like just as much as my favorite PCs, and I'm perfectly willing to have bad things happen to them.

Kol Korran
2013-06-27, 11:46 PM
Hmmmm.... What I prepare is as follows:
- The main issue/s (up to 3) Affecting the characters. For these I like to get the general idea, the powers involved, Basic grasp of abilities of the main antagonists (I work by The Giant's villain's workshop) and their general plan. I mean general since this can be changed.
- Basic grasp o the main locations in the setting, possibly a rough map. I also try to fleshen out places where the PCs can come from and interact with a bit more. (no more than 2-3 paragrpahs at most)
- The first adventure.
- a good grasp of "the near future" as much as I can predict it baed on all of the above (though players can of course change that).
- Usually the stats of common recurring enemies.
- NPCs according to the situation, but usually no more than 5-8. A few fully detailed, most are only statted the basics (hp, level, relevant skills and such). I don't make NPCs by alignments (my group doesn't use them), but by position, relevance and interest factor.

Haluesen
2013-06-28, 01:08 AM
Well for my most recent campaign at least, I first set up a general idea of the main conflict of the game and the setting. In this case the setting is one extremely massive city, so I familiarize myself with anything needed for city-based adventures. Knowledge of little rules and such for your campaign setting are helpful. I don't write many stats until they are really needed, and for most NPC's i just right a few little details for acting them out and how they might interact with the PC's.

As for actual adventures, I usually use brief periods throughout the week before a session to set up encounters, goals, and locations. The entire campaign setting itself has been a work in progress for a long while now, so I have a lot I could pull out if I need something on the fly. I'm not terrible as improvising, but if players go to far off the rails (almost never with my friends) then I admit I lose a lot of the session's activities. I hate railroading but I am just not too good with quick improvisation of monsters and challenges.

tommhans
2013-06-28, 03:27 AM
i write detailed plot elements , but also alternatives should they do something else. usually they did something unexpected, but it was more hilarious that way(did a whole session without an encounter because they wanted to fly to a mountain using the fly machine they built, but they managed to fail steering it when coming up to a high altitude so they fell down, were also some awesome RPing where one guy traumatized a dude forever by jamming a pinecone up his arse while he was in his private moment after drinking a bad potion.

This made the other dude turn to moradin and ask that that guy got an evil alignment, and it worked! so from being a cleric healer he became a reaper, neutral evil alignment, they just took things too a whole new level. So they had theyre fights now and then after that.

But yesterday was my last session as a DM for now, as we finished my story, which well, the evil arch enemy's monologue was ruined by a dude putting silence on him and they attacked him, which made him blow up the giants inside the cities of the land, thus making the land a lot more destroyed as a punishment, sometimes, killing a dude without hearing him out isnt so smart ^^

but yeah cant wait to be a player again and make the next DM's life difficult like they did to me :D

Crazyfailure13
2013-06-28, 04:03 PM
Depends on the campaign for me, but I am always play PbP so it allows me to just jump in blind most of the time.

Though with my kingmaker type game I have several concepts for the area the players are exploring at least.

Novawurmson
2013-07-03, 01:13 AM
You made 47 NPCs before the campaign even started? And are making more? That's ... wow, I have no words. I made ... two.

I should probably specify that I've been working on this campaign off and on for at least a year. Most of the campaigns I've DMed I only had 1-6 NPCs made XD

Vitruviansquid
2013-07-03, 02:28 AM
Depends on the game. For Savage Worlds, I generally think up the kind of world I want to put the players in, hack together some rules modifications depending on what I think would help set the tone, and start planning a first, introductory session. Aside from the general trajectory of the story, I design every character, location, or plot point before the session where they become relevant.

For more rules-heavy games, like DnD 4e, I just skip the step of hacking together rules, but planning for each session tends to be longer.

nedz
2013-07-03, 06:30 AM
I'm preparing for a new game at the moment, though it won't start for quite a while.
What I've done so far:


Outline of the main plot which will be a multi-layer xanatos pile up between NPC factions.
Half a dozen maps showing the geo-politics.
Special house-rules for the setting, e.g. how witches work.
List of early encounter ideas always a WIP.
Builds for stock NPCs/military/humanoids.


I have yet to name the major NPCs let alone stat them. I know roughly how they will all fit together. I won't stat out the main players until after the game has started, since they will not feature, personally, in the early game. I will finish statting out their low level minions, though I need to do more work here.

I had defined the pantheon I was going to use, but I might change this. This needs more thought.

Kon Lesh
2013-07-03, 03:55 PM
I have a campaign that I have been working on for about 50 hours. I have surprisingly little information actually written down about the world. I have:

-detailed world map
-detailed map of three of the main cities (there are six total)
-1 page of information about each nation
-2 pages of major world history
-1 page of major upcoming world events if the pc's don't do anything
-3 pages detailing all 12 of the world races
-4 pages detailing all 8 gods
-12 pages of standardized npc opponents

Most of my time is actually spent with roleplaying with my girlfriend in order to more easily build the personality of the gods and major NPC rulers.

CombatOwl
2013-07-05, 01:13 PM
Started totaling up NPCs I've made for my next game. Here are some stats:

Total NPCs: 47

Total good NPCs: 9 (19%)
Total neutral NPCs: 16 (34%)
Total evil NPCs: 22 (47%)

Total lawful NPCs: 15 (32%)
Total neutral NPCs: 22 (47%)
Total chaotic NPCs: 10 (21%)

I've still got more NPCs in mind that I don't have write-ups for, too, so I'll probably make a few of them good and maybe chaotic. I'm almost a little embarrassed at how unprepared I was for most of my previous campaigns (sans Rise of the Runelords, where a lot of it was done for me). I'm not sure if I've ever had even a dozen NPCs created for a campaign before.

How prepared are you normally before starting a campaign? Just a few names on a scrap of paper? A whole book written?

I have a map of the starting area, a more detailed map of any cities in the area, a map for at least three dungeons that the party might conceivably go to, an adventure plan for each of said dungeons (I.E. quests), typically a printed copy of any monster in the area, along with a random encounter table (sorted by weather conditions). I also have write-ups for major NPCs, and templates for minor NPCs. After getting into FATE, I also started writing minor NPCs up with a few core aspects to draw on during play (the same technique works just as well for roleplaying in d&d). I also have a three-month weather forecast prepared, which gets updated as the party progresses through the adventure, along with trail notes for each area reflecting various environmental hazards the party might encounter (to provide some variety for the Oregon Trail aspect of adventuring).

More importantly, I also have a list of story goals and an outline of things to come already prepared. I have a list of hooks that need to be added at particular points, along with some basic side-quests that might crop up if players ask the right questions.