March 13, 2004
Wish 88: In Your Wildest Dreams
Do you ever dream about games and characters? Do you incorporate the dreams into your games? How? Has it been successful or unsuccessful?

I used to dream incredibly vivid dreams. My sugars must be better or something -- I learned when I was diabetic that low blood sugar induces dreams and sleepwalking. Now that I'm not low, byebye dreams. *sighs*

However...

I do remember dreaming about the very first Amber campaign I was in. I walked up to my GM and said "I dreamed that Jenny found out that Brand was really her father." This was before the whole plotline (which he had already started) came to fruition. I dreamed that Jenny found out who was blackmailing her, and that it was her father, and that she freaked out (good reaction -- she did in game too).

Weird?

Not really. I work things out in dreams. Puzzles. And games are puzzles to me, so it only makes sense that occassionally my characters should be able to grab a few CPU cycles and work on their own puzzles in my dreams.

I wish I could remember more game related dreams. I know there have been more over the years, but they have been forgotten. No really good ones recently, except for dreaming that I was at Ambercon. *smiles*

Posted by Deb Atwood at 12:07 PM
February 26, 2004
WISH 85: Character Inspirations

This week, Ginger asks...

What inspires you to create characters? Do you have partially-developed characters in mind for use when you get into a new campaign? Do you shop characters around, or do you come up with new characters when you get into a campaign? Why? If you GM, are you bothered by receiving a solicitation for a “generic” character, or does it enthuse you to get a solid proposal even if it’s not closely tailored to your game?

Mmph, loaded question.

For one thing, six months ago I would've told you I don't reuse characters. Then I did.

I used to think that each character had to be completely unique. Spring from a new source in my brain, a new personality, a new voice. Then I realized I had some characters who had been SO short-lived that I wanted to give them new life. I have found homes for the two now -- Jinx has a new home in SoM and Devon in Galren (the only thing that transported was the attitude...).

I prefer to come up with something suited to the game. If I do draw inspiration from my own past Voices, I have to make them different somehow. Tailor them. Otherwise they get all muddled up.

But I've realized something. I'm not terribly unique. I have a pattern, and it has been pointed out to me before. And I knew it anyway, I just didn't like to think of it as a flaw. Now I begin to wonder if it is ... if I have become boring and predictable.

I play the innocent in Amber. Naive. Often a bit self-centered (okay, often a LOT self-centered). Many many traits the same between my characters (i could list them all -- it ain't important). Different pasts, different motivations, but when it comes down to it, they are all heart, with a logic all their own. Trouble, usually. Catalysts. But still, in some heart of the matter, all the same.

And while that disturbs me that perhaps I am typecasting my own playstyle, I have realized that hey, I have fun. And I try to make sure the GM and other players have fun. Use me... I try to create characters that are in the middle of things and can *become* catalysts.

I'm rambling.

Switching topics to GMing.

I prefer a unique character, crafted to fit my game. I need to have hooks, some way of getting inside the character. I run a character oriented game, and if I can't "get" you, I can't give you a good time. Y'know?

That said, there are several characters in RoP which *were* brought in from other games because it first ran as a one-shot at ACUS. People didn't realize it was going to be a campaign so they brought characters they loved, who then got adapted into the game. And it has worked. The characters have changed and diverged from their original selves.

I think a character can be reused IF it is made new at the same time. If it does not bring baggage with it. If it becomes a part of the new game, and nothing of the old game remains.

What I really want to see is someone who cares about their character. Someone who gives me hooks to hang a plot on, and to hang character interaction on. When I was given Rhiannon (who is the young Brieanne from SB actually), I was told that she was Random's shadow. Which worked PERFECTLY. She had a history that fit into the game, and the pieces that didn't fit, we tossed out. Those that worked, we kept. And she has grown in her own directions now.

Rambling back into my own head now.

I've been inspired by movies. By seeing a picture (Leigh was inspired by watching That 70s Show and seeing Donna). By music (Kale was based purely on the Leah Andreone song in her soundtrack). And sometimes I just open my mouth and a character comes out. Romance novels, yes. Adrienne was inspired by the concept of the heroine with seven elder brothers all protecting her, when she was bloody willful enough to kick their asses and protect herself. Devon? Heh. He came from a twist in my head and just started talking to me.

I think this is why I usually find it so hard to play the Elders in an Amber game. They aren't mine. I have to MAKE them mine before they become workable for me. When Arref proposed the double-Dara idea to me for GA it inspired everything that Dara became. Because I suddenly had a way to make her mine all mine instead of having to be what the books said she was.

It is often that... a phrase, a side conversation, a sudden thought, and the character is there. Another Voice in my head.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 11:26 PM
December 27, 2003
WISH 78: Two Characters, One Game
Do you think allowing one player to play more than one character in a game is a good or bad idea? Does the style of the game make any difference? What about the format (FTF, PBeM, etc.)?

I, too, remember those years when I first started gaming and we would run two characters so we could round out the party, and keep ourselves alive. Those times of dungeon crawling. I think I was 16 at the time... more than half a lifetime ago.

Actually, I think I started running my second character (I cannot remember his name for the life of me now... only that he was a male mage and I'm pretty sure his name began with J) in order to protect my ranger, Pika, because she was the only female character in the party. And despite the fact that she carried a blade, well, I was playing with a bunch of randy teenage boys and they had a perverse sense of humor. I decided having two characters would be better than one.

I think that's the last time I played two characters in a FTF game. Even later, still as a teenager, I started to focus on roleplay rather than hack and slash. At that point, I realized that one character was the way to go so I didn't get seriously distracted or confused.

A part of me says I could do it now. After all, I GM and can manage to flip personalities on a dime. But when I'm playing, I want to focus on just being one person at a time, and I think I do my character a disservice if my brain is split.

As a GM, I have allowed people to play two characters in a PBEM game. In the games I've run, it hasn't worked out. People were unable to focus on both characters, and one would fall by the wayside. Would I try it again? Probably, if the player had time and wanted to try. It might depend on the player.

Playing multiple characters in GA, I think it works a LOT better in a troupe style game. Where the players have more impact on where the game is going and it is not so GM intensive. Still... it does increase the number of characters, and the amount of work. I could see it being daunting.

But in GA I'm not having a problem focussing on all three characters. Nor metagaming for all three characters. It *does* take a lot of time, though. A lot of focus. But there are also a lot of people to work with and to brainstorm with, which is good. In a troupe style game, I think playing multiple characters is a good thing because it does spread the resources around. Although that is looking at it purely from the point of view of a player.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 09:35 AM
August 01, 2002
WISH 6: Secrets
This week's WISH is something of a follow-up to last week's.

Sometimes the plot of a game requires a GM to keep secrets. Is it better for the GM and other players to keep most out-of-character knowledge secret, or to assume that players are capable of keeping in-character and out-of-character knowledge separate? Where and how do you draw the line as a GM and/or player between what secrets should be kept and which ones are OK to reveal?

Okay, so I'm sort of doing these in reverse, since I haven't done the communication one yet, but right now, I need something mild I can work on and this one is actually easier.

I'm big on secrets. As a GM and as a player. In fact, in recent years, I've had to back off because I found I've been gaming with people who are far more open about in-character knowledge than I am.

I think my fondness for keeping the secrets secret is due to two things... The first is that I'm somehow always the character who ends up with a weird big secret during the game, or becomes the betrayer. I think I started a reputation when I first showed up at RPI. The second Champions character I had here at RPI was amnesiac. I thought it would be fun, which leads into the second reason -- I like learning things about my character during play. It means I always have something to do. So there I was, trying to learn about her during play and discover her secrets, and well, next thing I knew I found out she had at one point been allied with the enemy! Hells, at one point she thought she'd been sleeping with the enemy, but turned out that one wasn't true. Although there was a great conversation that had the bewildered line, "Uh... last I knew I was het?"

So anyway, I don't like hearing about secrets during the course of the game, unless I know them, because for me, part of the fun of the game, is unraveling those very secrets.

And I don't like secrets being told because as a GM, or even as a player, part of the fun is watching *others* work to uncover them. Or even the risk of them bumping into them by accident. I spent two sessions of WEF working hard to make sure Brennan didn't figure out that Benedict was NOT Adrienne's father -- Oberon was.

There are those pieces of OOC information that are okay to reveal. In Rite of Passage, because I'm running it at ACUS and because I want to run it in a single room, there's a lot of OOC stuff revealed during the ACUS sessions. But we continue over email between cons, and the things done there remain secret unless talked about between the players. And I think that's actually worked well. If there is something I really don't want anyone knowing, I take them in the other room.

In terms of me, as a GM, talking to my players... it happens. I've learned over the years that I cannot talk to Kevin (my husband) about games other than ones he plays in -- he admits flat out that it doesn't interest him. So we talk about what he's playing in, which if I'm playing that means I'm usually running it these days. Our conversation usually centers around what if's with his character, or IC conversations, or whatever. But right now, we've been talking about the new game I'm setting up, and he's been helping me work through some of my history.

It goes the same, if not moreso, for Josh. We walk, we chat, and he has always known more about what's going on in the games than others. But I STILL don't spill the big secrets if I can at all help it. After all, I want him to be trying to get at them too during the game!

Posted by Deb Atwood at 11:00 PM
July 14, 2002
GameWish -- Systems
Describe three systems you have gamed under: one you thought was good, one you thought was all right, and one you didn't care for. What were the good points and the bad points of each system? Did the systems support their genre? Were they complex or simple? How easy were they to GM and play? Is there a system you'd really like to try that you haven't? Which ones wouldn't you try based on reading them?

Good system...
Julia discounted Amber from her answers, because the system is minimal. However, I have to say... that's the very reason I will include it. *smiles*

For me, the best systems I've played in, and enjoyed the most, were the ones that were barely there. I like diceless, I'll admit it. My favorite systems have been Amber, my own (the one I've been trying to codify into an actual *system* as opposed to the bits and pieces are that are in existence now), and various other systems taken diceless. Yes, I've played diceless White Wolf, and diceless Champions, if you can believe it.

The why is simple -- I like to concentrate on the roleplay. I get tired of arguing rules, tired of rolling dice for things that just don't need dice, and well... I like non-intrusive rulesets. *smiles*

All right system...
I've played a lot of all right systems. The funny thing is, when I start really thinking about it, the fun of the game doesn't always mean good system. Like Champions. Its allright, but it has holes you can drive a truck through. GURPS is another one. I've enjoyed games I've played in it, and I can make characters easily, and they are fairly intuitive. But it still bogs down for me as a system. Then there is White Wolf, which I understood enough to run and liked at first, until I found the huge holes there. And it kept changing between editions, and well, I ended up using a weird mix of published rules and old rules and home-grown rules. I'm not sure I was entirely playing White Wolf after a while!

I think the best two actual *systems* I can think of, for pure mechanics, are Superworld and Runequest. I love the skill improvement -- place a dot next to a successful skill use and then you have a chance of improving it based on how good you already are -- you are more likely to be able to improve the worse you are. Its nicely realistic and allows for improvement based on actual use of an ability. I'm not all that thrilled with the powers in Superworld, but overall they are usable, and when combined with the skills, I like it for Supers games. Prefer it over Champions when I want a grim and gritty game -- its much more lethal than Champs ever could be. Runequest I don't know a lot of the world, but I've used the system for other worlds and its been great.

Bad system...
Lessee, this one would be easier if I were doing this on the upstairs computer and could see my collection of Superhero games. V&V is one -- randomly generated superheros just drive me NUTS. The Enforcers was just plain BAD. For more well known systems, I still don't get Shadowrun, but then, I'm not a great player of Cyberpunk games anyway.

Things I'd like to try...
I own Theatrix and have never used it. Want to. I've played Nephilim briefly, but would like to see more of it. I've created two Seventh Sea characters that I've never gotten to use and would love to try it out. Although that one is hard for me because I'm not good with published worlds that I'm not familiar with. Fudge sounds like fun.

Although right now, I'm just plain open to available gaming!! As long as its a theme I can deal with, strong on roleplaying, and not a "module" oriented game, I'm open to try it.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 09:36 PM
July 04, 2002
GameWISH 3, part 2

And once again, as I am thinking about it later, I remember something I should have said. And once again, I am refusing to go back and change anything, so I'm just gonna add on here.

Arthurian legends. I know, trite. And nothing special. But utterly pervasive in my gaming. There is so much, so many archetypes, that I simply cannot resist them!! I am known for it, and I've amused people when I *haven't* used them. This goes with my tendency for mythological themes, as well as religious. In IWS I used greek mythology (had to when I had a player choose Castor as a character name, with a dead twin Pollux -- I reread that myth and ran with it). I like to draw from really basic stuff, I suppose.

Midsummer Night's Dream. How could I forget? Jack referred to it as a recasting, but I thought of it as a strong influence. Bridgette and I ran "To 'Scape the Serpent's Tongue" at TBR which just went awesomely. We are hoping to rerun it at ACUS, if we can find a slot we can both do it in. The quote for the description, and for the title, both come from the Shakespeare play, and the original inspiration came from there as well.

Shakespeare is another one I love to use. Yes, yes, another classic. And at TBR I wasn't the only one -- I was thinking about Serpent's Tongue in the car on the drive home from ACUS, because Bridgette and I had just agreed we were going to do it if she was going to be able to make TBR, and then it got DJ all thinking on Shakespeare, and he ran "Amber in Love" which wasn't Shakespeare but the title was inspired by the conversation about Shakespearean love comedies, and also "Much Ado About Benedict", if I'm remembering the title correctly, which would obviously be stemmed from a conversation about "Much Ado About Nothing". Ah yes, gotta love Shakespeare.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 11:47 PM
July 03, 2002
GameWISH 3

From GameWISH...

Discuss three setting ideas or ideas for elements of settings that you got from movies/books/TV/etc. that you have read or seen recently. These do not need to be full-fledged settings, but can be single elements that could be incorporated into existing games.

Ooh, this one is *difficult*! Y'see, I don't always *know* where I get my inspirations from, and sometimes I come back and figure it out later. Much later, like when my subconscious brain finally informs my conscious busy-GMing brain what is actually going on in the game. This is often close to the end of the game, after I've been running it for ages. *chuckle*

One of my favorite inspirations are the mirrors from Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen Donaldson. I was told to read the books so I could understand something a friend was talking about, when his trump artist taught my trump artist more about artistry. Despite my lack of love for Donaldson's writing in general, I found that this book and its sequel were wonderful, and the mirrors were fascinating. So I used something similar in one game.

For recent reading, or watching, I can't think of anything off the top of my head. I read one of the Hugo nominated books in part because its description reminded me (very loosely) of a plot I ran once in Vampire years ago -- so that would be the reverse. *laughs*

No, wait... its not recent, but its one of the stronger influences I've used. I was reading Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series while I was running "If We Shadows" (my FTF Amber game, which has since ended). Pullman's view of the dimensions, and the land of the dead and its interactions, impressed me greatly, and that heavily influenced how my world ended up put together.

I'd love to do a game which uses the soul creatures from Pullman's novels. At one point, I wondered if that's where Michael was going with the creatures in Chaos Theory, but that's not it. But the idea of a game where one wears one's soul, one's essence, on the outside is a wonderful thought. Either with Amberites or anyone, really.

I've also greatly enjoyed a game using Gaiman's Neverwhere as an influence. London Below is a great concept. Gaiman himself makes for great influence -- I've used the Dreaming before, in part because I was running a crossover game ("Artifacts of Winter") and one of the players who crossed into it was a Sandman fan, and utilized the Dreaming heavily. I created a guild called the Dreamweavers, and then Chris and Josh together really built what the Dreamlands in AoW became. And still are, today, in the sequel game of Between the Lines.

I think I've done more than three now, but I'm not sure if I've done any of them solidly enough to really be *used* by anyone else.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 09:21 PM
June 29, 2002
GameWISH, Mark II

I woke up this morning and thought of a successful relationship that has a hell of a story behind it, and definitely trumps either Celia & Madoc, or Talis & Eldan. The hills and valleys in this one, and that it became one of the best relationships I've seen played through, make it SUCH a better choice.

So anyway, I refuse to edit my past post to remove the one I said. Because I said it for good reason. But this one is better, so I'm adding it to the list.

This romance began in the most unlikely of fashions, in my World of Darkness game (Where Chaos Reigns). Jim Rain, a 500 year old vampire, wanted to learn Thaumaturgy. At the time, he was blood-bonded to a new created vampire by the name of Linnette. The two of them sought out Lawrence (Laurie) Cuthbert, a Tremere, to teach them the basics of magic. Jim had been turned at the height of teenage hormones, and Laurie was just well, flirtatious and voracious. And Linnette was caught in the middle. The three had a strong relationship until Laurie and Linnette saw that the building Jim was in blew up (yes, Jim was the PC). They searched and searched, but Jim was dead.

Laurie was devestated. He left the States and returned to England where he remained for a few years. He began one relationship in the wake of Jim’s loss (only admitting to himself, barely, how he felt about Jim after his death) but that failed. [That story is the one published by Circlet Press actually.]

Then one day Laurie received a phone call, and a wispy little girl voice said, “Laurie? Its me… Jim.” Laurie stared at the phone dumfounded as the voice continued, “The magic worked. I came back. I’m in Scotland and I’m a little girl and my mom’s a mage. Come get me.”

While Jim had been learning magic from Laurie, he created his own path of tantric magic, which included a ritual for preparing the soul for resurrection. Of course, none of them knew if it would work for a vampire, but they had performed the ritual not long before Jim's death.

And so, in fact, he hadn't died. Jim Rain was now Bridget, who seemed to be the child prodigy of the greatest druid in Britain. Her mother was surprised by how early the girl's talents appeared, but took it in stride as the strength of her blood, not realizing that the two year old Bridget also had all the memories (and magical knowledge) of a 500 year old vampire.

Laurie appeared on Bridget's doorstep, wishing to take the child prodigy to his magic school in London, where she could be trained properly. When it showed that the girl took to the handsome vampire, and knowing that the vampire had a good reputation despite being dead, Bridget's mother agreed. And as soon as they arrived in London, Laurie prepared a ritual to age Bridget to a point of her desiring (she chose the same age at which Jim had been turned, with the intention that she could age normally from there). And Bridget joined the school.

But there was still all this ancient history between them. Laurie hadn't forgotten Jim, and having him back as Bridget was both joyous and painful. And Bridget had not forgotten Laurie either. She delighted in teasing him, tempting him. And being as Laurie was drop-dead gorgeous anyway, she didn't seem all that different from all the other girls in the school who also flirted outrageously with the headmaster.

Bridget was determined to have Laurie again. Laurie was determined to do the right thing and keep his hands off of her. In the end, Bridget won (the story, not currently on my site, is "A Mild Obsession", a part of the Chaotic Erotica and posted online probably around 10 years ago). The two began a tumultuous relationship.

Anyone who knew them knew how strongly they felt about each either. It was an open relationship, because neither was the exclusive sort. But Laurie was utterly devoted to Bridget, and she to him. When one was hurt, the other went to any lengths for vengeance. And when Bridget said that the one thing she wanted was a child -- *his* child -- Laurie agreed to perform a ritual that left him mortal for the space of a week. It was the biggest sacrifice he could make, to leave himself so vulnerable for her, but it worked, and the two conceived their daughter Jezebel.

Through the entire thing, Jim/Bridget was a PC -- the change in self had actually been planned by us because Jim had become unplayable due to being on the wrong side of the fence with the other PCs and Shawn didn't want to leave the campaign or start completely fresh. But we let people believe he had started fresh, and he left how Jim was reincarnated to me. I made him female in part because the name occurred to me so it seemed right, and in part because I wanted to challenge Shawn's roleplaying. Which worked.

The whole thing just kept coming together. Just kept working. They went through hell but in the long run, Bridget and Laurie were together. Laurie had his other loves, but Bridget was THE ONE. Their character, and their romance, came alive and was a central point of the game.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 03:54 PM
GameWISH
Describe two romantic relationships involving a PC you've seen in a game. One should be a romance that worked for the participants and the other should be one that failed, died, or came to an end. What was good and bad about these relationships from the point of view of plot and character development? How did the GM make the romance appealing to the players?

Oh gods, I could go on about this for SUCH a long time. To me, the best plots are based upon the relationships between the characters. As a GM, I usually find that the plots revolve around the relationships in some manner. As a player, I find that relationships tend to bind me more into the plot.

For a failed relationship, there is only one choice. Adrienne and Jerrym, in Which Endureth Forever. Ohmigod.

I love it when a character does something I don’t expect. I mean, there I am, playing her, and she’s just doing things which are happening and coming out of her mouth and I’m sitting back and wondering where the hell she’s getting that from and why the hell she’s doing that. And that’s what happened with Adrienne.

I knew there was something going on in her head. But I didn’t know what was causing her to act the way she was. She was 16 ½, and new to Amber. She’d been Benedict’s protégé in shadow, and upon her arrival in Amber, he had asked Jerrym to continue teaching her. Jerrym wasn’t so thrilled by having this possible daughter of Benedict dropped in his lap, and their relationship went downhill from there.

I think Adrienne and I figured it out about the same time. She’d gone off into shadow to “grow up” because she was tired of being just the kid and not getting all the jokes. So she literally went off to learn more about life, sex, and magic. Hm, I think that’s when shapeshifting got added in as well, or slightly thereafter. She worked with Samuel, and had a wonderful little interlude with him, which other than friendship, meant absolutely nothing. She spent a lot of time centering herself, and figuring herself out. Which was when she realized that she was spending all this time knocking herself out, trying to get Jerrym’s approval. She was horrified to realize that somewhere along the way she’d developed a crush on him.

And it just went downhill from there. In Julia’s blog you can read about Jerrym and Rhiannon – her example of a good relationship. This should say enough about how badly Adrienne’s experience went.

Except that you still have NO idea.

Rhiannon died. Jerrym was in love and Rhiannon was killed by Ardath (Adrienne’s best friend, and the subject of another crush, but that’s a totally different story). But Rhiannon wasn’t totally dead. And over time, as Adrienne realized that her crush on Jerrym had grown into a full-on unrequited love, Adrienne also learned that Rhiannon wasn’t quite dead.

The scariest moment was when she literally offered to die for Rhiannon. She offered to give herself up so that Rhiannon could live. As a shapeshifter, it sounded logical to her, and it would give her Jerrym, in some manner.

Yes, Adrienne is a scary girl. Don’t confuse her with me. I don’t think I could EVER be as messed up as she is. Laughs

Thankfully, Jerrym didn’t accept. And that was the moment when he learned how Adrienne felt. And when he officially rejected her, which gave her a good reason to start to pull out of it and put her head back in working order. They almost became friends after that (and Adrienne finally learned what had attracted her to him in the first place, despite that he never gave her an ounce of encouragement). But then Adrienne fell in love with Stephan, and has done things that many don’t approve of (the story of Adrienne’s life) and that pretty much killed off her fledgling friendship with Jerrym.

After all that, she still wishes him well, and likes Rhiannon (they had a great tea after she came back to life), and wishes his daughter well. But it is most definitely the epitome of the most messed up relationship I have ever played through in a game.

For the best relationship that worked out really well… I had to really think about it. There were Celia and Madoc, from Tony Pi’s Paradox, who were the epitome of The Lovers tarot card. There are Krystol and Jacob from Honor thy Father and Mother at ACUS, who are still sorting out their relationship despite being married and him on the throne of Chaos. It’s a relationship that the players weren’t expecting but the characters just went there. But after all my thought, I came to Eldan and Talis, from The End of the Beginning, run by Felicia Olson.

It was a Chaos based game. When the characters met, Talis was studying the Logrus intensely (and to be Suhuy’s direct apprentice), and was pregnant and married. Eldan was a new student. They struck up a friendship. And Eldan was there when Talis took the Logrus, her husband died, and she birthed the twins (yes, all in one afternoon). Their friendship was cemented as they went through the next several years, going back and forth, and having the most difficult time trusting each other with their hearts. There were proposals of marriage, but Talis was too concerned that Eldan was only marrying her for her daughters’ sake, and not for his own sake. Finally they managed to get it through their heads that it was right, and the dam broke, and they were the perfect couple. It was a great setup to play through, and turned out great.

Now, I’ll admit, Celia and Madoc is right up there too… but that one lost out simply because I know it was engineered. I know that Tony set it up, and tried to put the two of them together (and he called it just right on what I’d do, and Celia and Madoc became the perfect couple… sort of).

Enough babbling. Funny how the failed relationship has so much more to write about than the good one, huh?

Posted by Deb Atwood at 12:00 AM
June 23, 2002
GameWISH

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.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 10:51 AM