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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    I have a player who often requested that his character is close friends with various powerful NPCs in my world. I think this has had mixed effects on the game.

    Positive sides:
    + It's easy to initiate adventures. The NPC patron has certain leverage over the protégée, and thus over the group.
    + The NPC patron can screw the protégée if game balance becomes tilted.
    Negative:
    - The protégée PC takes the spotlight, because usually he can negotiate things with the patron NPC without (and sometimes against) the consensus of the group.
    - The "Chosen One" PC can get substantial benefit from this arrangement, which can sometimes blur the harmony of the group, such as being at the same level and having the same wealth. And playing by the same rules.

    In order to even this out a bit, I have created a feat called Contact (we play D&D 3.5, but this not relevant here). Having this feat is the ONLY way to have a reliable NPC patron/friend, and without it any NPC can screw the PCs at any time. However, the feat is not used and the PCs trust the NPC patrons and allies. Fair enough.

    An example (not from actual game):
    The players create beginner-level characters, and one guy wants that his character's dad is an archmage. Is that fine? If not, then the player will ask: "How powerful my NPC daddy can be?"
    What do you say?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Subaru Kujo's Avatar

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    I either tend to make the powerful contacts either powerful in action only (that is, they are a good bit stronger than the PC (at time of creation)), but they are on the run from something (say, a king is convinced that the wizard PC's mentor is a traitor, and the mentor doesn't want to cement his guilt by killing his pursuers), so he can't give his full aid to the PC at any given time, if at all.

    The second option is to make the NPC contact have clear and definite terms to their relationship with the PC. For instance, my Miraluka soldier will have the services of a Bothan smuggler for one (reasonable by the way) favor. Perhaps, smuggling in a fairly restricted item past customs for me. Nothing that major, you see. Then the relationship is over, and we both go our separate ways, as friends perhaps, but not risking our lives to help each other directly.
    Last edited by Subaru Kujo; 2013-09-01 at 12:15 PM.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    DruidGirl

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    You'll need to define exactly what they are to the patron and vice versa, since they could easily be the bad guy and their character a cats paw which isn't something they should be looking for.

    If someone tried that in a game I was running I'd point out they'd be usually too busy unless it involved the adventure in some way.

    When I create a character I usually have a back story and any characters of note will be mentioned I even designed the mentor for a sorceress character but that was unlikely to become centre stage when the dm had us travel in the opposite direction but when he then declared sorcerors' needed scrolls to learn new spells well it went downhill from there.

    Make them design any npc's they include in their backstory but unless they're clear how and why these npcs' are involved with their PC well that's something you can use to your advantage I'm just saying if that archmage is stricken with some ailment it may be up to their friend to come save them...

    If they learn its a form of anti-magic to keep their ally from interfering you've now got a good reason why that npc is involved and it will be interesting to see if that player thinks his PC cares enough to help his contact...
    Last edited by Hopeless; 2013-09-01 at 12:31 PM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Rosstin's Avatar

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    The powerful contacts rarely help the PCs for various reasons.

    I would never let the PCs have powerful unbreakable relationships with NPCs above a certain level who are still active in the world. Having a contact a few levels above the PC is fine, but higher is not. The more powerful the NPC, the more tightly controlled by the DM and not the player that NPC needs to be.

    The fact that your PCs take the time and effort to develop NPCs like this is really great, though. It's worth the effort to work with the PCs on this. The PCs can get some tangible benefits from helping you worldbuild, but just keep it reasonable.

    Shadowrun is worth a mention here for having a relationship system that you put points into at character creation. You should crib that system and have your players use it to determine what kind of contacts with what power levels they have. After character creation things can change though.
    Last edited by Rosstin; 2013-09-01 at 12:33 PM.
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    DruidGirl

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    Maybe a variation of the Leadership feat wasn't there something similar to that Contact feat the first poster was suggesting somewhere?

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    Here's a little excerpt from Shadowrun that talks about contacts. Shadowrun uses "connection" and "loyalty" tables to determine contacts, and you have to spend points to get loyal and connected contacts.

    To adapt this for DnD, I would do the following. Keep the loyalty table, and substitute the connection table with the character level. Give the characters say 12 points. Using those points, players can get contacts. With those 12 points, characters could buy say one max-loyalty contact at 6th level, one purely economic business relationship with an 11th level character, two 3rd-level acquaintance contacts, or any other combination.

    If the players have really rich and interesting ideas for contacts, you can award them some extra points. Or they could spend a feat or skill points for more contacts etc.

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    Since it's really just one player who wants this benefit, you're probably better off not formally codifying it like this, but you can keep this sort of thing in mind and limit the loyalty level of the contact. I wouldn't allow the players contact to have more than a "buddy" level of friendship at the beginning of the campaign (depending on power.) More detailed relationships need to be properly roleplayed and developed. Just make sure that the other players are okay with all of this and you'll be golden. If the player enjoys having contacts, then that's part of how they like to play and you should let them have it, and make sure the other players get the right amount of spotlight and don't resent the connection.
    Last edited by Rosstin; 2013-09-01 at 12:52 PM.
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    Jane_Smith's Avatar

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    Or just make the contact an extremely powerful godlike figure... but neutral aligned and very impatient, and every gift given requires a steep payment later. So they always have the 'oh crap' button, but it makes a bigger 'oh crap' later. Spamming it is not advised. <_<

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon_Dahl View Post
    Negative:
    - The protégée PC takes the spotlight, because usually he can negotiate things with the patron NPC without (and sometimes against) the consensus of the group.
    Only if you let him.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon_Dahl View Post
    - The "Chosen One" PC can get substantial benefit from this arrangement, which can sometimes blur the harmony of the group, such as being at the same level and having the same wealth. And playing by the same rules.
    Only if you let him.

    The introduction to my last Champions game included this:
    I know most of the ways to try to build a character worth much more than the rules intend. If you come up with such a strategy, I will congratulate you on your cleverness and ruthlessly disallow it
    You need to congratulate this guy on his cleverness and tell him he's playing a 1st-level character.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon_Dahl View Post
    In order to even this out a bit, I have created a feat called Contact (we play D&D 3.5, but this not relevant here). Having this feat is the ONLY way to have a reliable NPC patron/friend, and without it any NPC can screw the PCs at any time. However, the feat is not used and the PCs trust the NPC patrons and allies. Fair enough.
    Instead of getting rid of the problem, you're institutionalizing it.

    The only two changes from the situation you don't like will be:
    1. This guy will have one fewer feat, and
    2. He is now justified in asking for a powerful patron to help him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon_Dahl View Post
    An example (not from actual game):
    The players create beginner-level characters, and one guy wants that his character's dad is an archmage. Is that fine? If not, then the player will ask: "How powerful my NPC daddy can be?"
    What do you say?
    Three possibilities came to mind immediately.
    1. "You want your father to be a wizard. OK, I'll design him and tell you what you know about him in a couple of days."
    2. "Fine. He's an archmage. The last time you saw him was when he went into his lab three months ago, saying that it will take him two uninterrupted years to complete the artifact he's making."
    3. "You father called you into his study this morning, and told you that he expects you to make it on your own. He will not give you any magic, equipment, or help until you reach twentieth level. you and your belongings are now outside his home, and you hear the door lock."

    The crucial answer, every single time, is that NPCs are not played by players.

    The introduction to my latest D&D campaign had the following paragraph:
    You can have a mentor. You can be a knight’s new squire, a wizard’s apprentice, or a priest’s acolyte. Creating such a character will be a joint venture, but this isn’t somebody who will adventure with you, and it isn’t somebody you run. It’s an NPC that I run, in order to put you in interesting and dangerous situations.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Subaru Kujo's Avatar

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    3. "You father called you into his study this morning, and told you that he expects you to make it on your own. He will not give you any magic, equipment, or help until you reach twentieth level. you and your belongings are now outside his home, and you hear the door lock."
    This is good, though I'd invite the player to come back every 5 levels for a dinner and to chew the fat over the son's adventures (there is the scrying option if he really wants to know what's going on, but I'd be in the camp that it is, in this case, magical aid).

    Not too obscene, but it does give the player the idea that the father does care about the child (unless of course, he, in fact, doesn't).
    Last edited by Subaru Kujo; 2013-09-01 at 02:05 PM.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    Make the NPC Straff Venture.

    Sorry, gratuitous reference to the Mistborn novels I'm reading. (Best fantasy I've read in YEARS.)

    Essentially, he's the father of a main character but sees no problem with threatening to kill his son. Rather like Tarquin perhaps. Basically, in fantasy, being related to someone in no way guarantees that they will not kill you. In fact, if you have a brother, they're more likely to be your arch-nemesis than your best bud.
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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    I don't mind if a PC wants a strong contact as long as the player pays the appropriate price for it (character points, exp, etc.) I usually let them come up with the contact's details and I'll role-play it out whenever the contact is... um, contacted.

    Having powerful allies can also have a negative side: They may occasionally have big problems that they want the PC to deal with (This makes for nice adventures on occasion). "Scratch my back, scratch your back" sort of thing. Don't want to lose face with your contact, right?
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  12. - Top - End - #12
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    Morithias's Avatar

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    If they pay for it/earn it. They deserve it.

    If they won't pay the feat/character points/etc. Expect that character to be dead by the end of the first chapter.

    And just a warning for any players out there.

    NEVER make yourself a noble without taking "Noble Birth" feat in my games.

    Or expect the Red Wedding to be the opening scene.
    Last edited by Morithias; 2013-09-02 at 08:05 AM.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    It depends on how powerful the NPCs in question are. When I make a campaign, I generally have players help do worldbuilding, so if they want to add in an interesting NPC they are allied with, I'm generally ok with that as long as it isn't overly strong or an overly tight alliance. And one should keep in mind that NPC connections can backfire. If the NPC in question is tightly guarded and has enemies, the enemies might go after the NPCs friends for example. Or other NPCs who don't trust the ally might not work with or trust the PC as a result.
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  14. - Top - End - #14
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Craft (Cheese)'s Avatar

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    I think the FATE 2e Extra system is the best way to handle it. You spend skill points to get aspects that represent resources your character has, like "I own a ship" or "I run a profitable business" or "I'm best buds with the king." You aren't precluded from having such things as part of your background but you have to spend the skill points to benefit through them with the aspect system.

  15. - Top - End - #15
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    Alex12's Avatar

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    Default Re: Advice needed: How do you handle NPC contacts in character creation?

    You could use the Contacts rules from Unearthed Arcana (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/ca...s/contacts.htm), perhaps with some tweaking.

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