Dolmenwood: NPC Write-Ups


For some time, I've been mulling over how to organise NPCs in the Dolmenwood Campaign Book. I've not come to any great conclusions yet, so I thought I'd throw the topic out there for general discussion, to see what others think.

The idea is that there will be three kinds of NPCs in the book:

  1. Minor NPCs who are only encountered in a specific location.
  2. Minor NPCs who could be encountered anywhere.
  3. Major NPCs who play a role in the setting as a whole.

Addressing these one by one:

Minor NPCs: Location-Specific
Innkeepers, guard captains, hedge-witches, etc.

These are easy to handle. They will simply be described in the hex or location where they can be encountered.

Minor NPCs: Non-Located
I plan to include a selection of NPCs that can be used by the referee when players encounter random individuals. These will be the kind of people that PCs might encounter in a tavern or on the road, for example. The kind of people that don't play a major role in the setting or one of its factions, but can provide a fun, diverting encounter, and might know interesting rumours or hooks.

Again, these characters are easy to handle. They'll be described in a separate section (an appendix, say) in a format designed for easy random selection.

Major NPCs
The chiefs or most important members of the factions that vie for control of the Wood -- individuals who hold a significant degree of political, military, or magical power, and can exert their influence on the setting as a whole.

This is where things get tricky. There are two possibilities for where to locate the descriptions of these NPCs:

  1. In the campaign background info, alongside the faction which the NPC is associated with.
  2. In the hex description where the NPC can be encountered.

Both options make total sense and have their own pros and cons, but I don't feel that one is clearly better than the other. I can see a few possible ways of resolving this:

  1. Include the NPCs along with the faction descriptions. In the hex description, just mention them by name and say "see page XXX".
  2. Include the NPCs in the hex descriptions. In the faction descriptions, just mention them by name and say "see hex XXX".
  3. Include the full NPC descriptions in both locations (faction and hex description).
  4. Include major NPCs in a separate appendix. In the faction and hex descriptions, just mention them by name and say "see page XXX".
If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'd be interested to hear! Also if anyone has experience of how this has been done in other campaign setting books, and what worked / didn't work.

10 comments:

  1. None of these approaches in inherently wrong, I'd prefer Major NPCs be done in the style of option 1 for both choices.

    ReplyDelete
  2. One suggestion for the non-located NPCs: maybe leave a blank column for the GM to write down what hex the NPC was seen by the players if it is rolled. That way, if that NPC is rolled again later down the line, there is some reference to remind the GM that this NPC was used before and where they were used.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'd go with listing the major NPCs with their faction, with their home hex mentioned in their description. My reasoning is that major NPCs are often dynamic in their actions over the course of a campaign. I'm likely to move them around as things progress, so associating them with a hex makes less sense.

    In addition, when I need to look an NPC up, I am unlikely to ever forget what faction they belong to, but I may not remember what hex they live in.

    The appendix idea would solve this as well, but I'd rather have NPCs in the same faction grouped together. Keeping them in their faction section would also keep them near any special mechanics (classes, spells, etc.) that related to their faction as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I concur, though in the instance of an NPC existing outside of a faction independantly other issues arise.

      Delete
  4. I think that I agree that option 1 might be better (though see no real problems with any of the options). I suspect that a major NPC is probably best understood in the conexco of their faction, and that the factions are best discussed by the example of their significant figures.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm veering towards option 4 ("Include major NPCs in a separate appendix"). Reasons:
    1. It solves the problem of needing to duplicate info in two places.
    2. It prevents either the hex or faction descriptions from getting too bloated.
    3. It mirrors the existing structure with monsters (reference / short stat block in hex descriptions, full monster write-ups in an appendix).
    4. It solves the issue mentioned by Radnardbeard above, that major NPCs that aren't related to a faction (they certainly exist) will need to be listed somewhere as well.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think I like the option 4. Maybe give absolute minimum like a statblock for them in hex description where appropriate, and keep the full information collected in a separate place with other big wigs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's exactly the approach I'm favouring, after discussing this and thinking about it some more. A really nice thing about that method is that it's exactly the same as how monsters are being handled.

      Delete