June 23, 2002

Ginger has started a new writing exercise -- GameWish. This week's thought...

Describe three NPCs (not major villains) that you really liked and what they added to the game. The NPCs can be from any game you've been in as a player or GM, and any system or genre.

When Julia mentioned this yesterday, there was one name that immediately came to mind. Tessa, from Artifacts of Winter.

Tessa began her life in that game as a very short note to myself -- "Chris' NPC". Artifacts of Winter was a crossover fantasy game and the first two people to crossover into the world of Elendar were Chris and Josh. I was trying to setup each player character with at least one PC so I could help draw them into the game and use character interaction to draw them into the plot. Except, in the case of Tessa, the character interaction made new plot.

Tessa was 14 at the beginning of the game. Her introduction came with Chris -- a soft pattering of feet at the campfire where he was captured. She released him and rescued him, and begged him to come sing her mother away. In her first appearance in the game we met her -- barefoot and scrawny, but fully believing she was an adult in this world -- and her brother Ben, who she cared for as best she could. Her mother died, and was buried by Chris and Josh. And we met Jordan, who employed her in his household, and who they later learned was both her father and the bane of her existence.

Tessa touched the hearts of all of the PCs who met her, and they resolved to steal her away from Jordan's influence, and one morning the PCs gathered Tessa and Ben up and fled.

There was a plot for AoW when I began it. I'm not sure they ever really played it. Near everything that happened resolved around Tessa and who she was. She became a central figure, and the most important plot point in the game. And she became an important figure in the future of the world... she is now the mother of one of the PCs in the sequel (PBEM) game as well as the mother of one of the central antagonists in the new game. And that antagonism is drawn out of an event which occurred because of a defense of Tessa during the course of AoW.

The next character is from my World of Darkness campaign, and again, began his life as an off-the-cuff sort of creation. I needed a head of House Tremere for London, and so on the spot Lawrence Cuthbert was born. I had no idea that Laurie would take over a piece of my mind and become what he did for the game. But he became much more than a character they spoke to once. He ended up journeying to Boston and becoming a central figure in the game. He was instrumental in the future of one PC, who died for him, and then returned for him to become his lover again. Laurie's sire was one of the Tremere Council, and when Laurie was stolen and tormented to get at the PCs, the PCs then managed to pull in the firepower of some of the most powerful Tremere in order to avenge him.

Laurie lives on as well, and in fact has become one of my favorite writing subjects. He is still a Voice in my head. I can start speaking as him and everyone who was in that campaign (or "met" him otherwise") knows who he is almost instantly. He has even had a story published by Circlet Press in the Cherished Blood anthology.

Trying to decide on a third choice was a little harder. I started thinking back through games I've played in, searching for one as a player, but realized that for all that I play, so much of my playtime is influenced by PCs and not NPCs. There are definitely some influences -- Stephan, in WEF; Brand and Demeter in Shawn's campaign (my first ever Amber campaign). I know neither Adrienne nor Jenny would be the same without those characters.

But somehow I find myself gravitating back to the voices in my head for the final answer. And I realize that I can't settle on simply one.

In Between the Lines, 'Thelion's wives are definitely "alive" and major forces in how his version of the world, and his plotlines, work. Again, they were intended for character building. But Damara and Heria became something more to the game, important to the entire plotline. Not to mention fun from the RP sense, as they are so completely different, and both completely in love with 'Thel. That segment has actually been a great example of how both RP and plot can weave together to become one thing.

And then, back in my World of Darkness campaign again (Where Chaos Reigns, by title), there was Valerie. The insane Malkavian Prince of Boston, she was a riot to play, and came alive. And she was someone the characters trusted, despite her madness, and despite the fact that she was systematically killing people in order to try to bring them to greater power. One PC actually went to her and allowed her to destroy him so that he could ascend to another power level. Another PC spent a good amount of time protecting the NPC who had once been his greatest enemy (hells, Morgana deserves her tiny mention here as another amazing NPC) and had become one of his closest friends instead -- Valerie wanted to try the power trick with her too.

Sometimes I realize, as a GM, its hard to pick one NPC from any campaign. Because when a campaign goes well for me, there are SO many NPCs who come alive. And they become the ones who drive the game, whether villains or "the good guys". And since the question explicitly said not villains, I haven't even mentioned those, although there were numerous ones that also had a great impact on the game.

My brain keeps firing off with little voices saying "me, me". Mirya, the goddess of mystery and magic, who one PC fell in love with, and who destroyed people for her love, comes to mind. AoW wouldn't have been the same game without her interaction without her and Josh's tangled relationship. She was as instrumental as Tessa.

I think, for me as a GM, the NPCs *are* my PCs. And the more of them who are alive, the easier the game is to run. The better the game is, and the more "whole" it is for the PCs. Which just makes it difficult to choose just three.

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