How do I make a NPC that is dead inside and disinterested in the world around him while also being someone whom my…

How do I make a NPC that is dead inside and disinterested in the world around him while also being someone whom my…

How do I make a NPC that is dead inside and disinterested in the world around him while also being someone whom my party will care about?

As a DM I like to insert NPC’s into the party and role play as them along side my players. This time I wanted to give my inserted NPC a bit more of a dark backstory. Something akin to – he and a girl where in love, he went away with a group promising to return to her, the group betrayed him, time passed (years) with him growing colder each day, his past love finds him but he wants nothing to do with her, she follows after him usually only a day behind, he joins the party.

I’ve seen DM’s use distant, disassociated NPC’s in the past but when they did it the party would just ignore the NPC. The thought being “If they are just going to be distant then I’m not going to bother interacting with them. I’ve got better things to do than find out whats wrong with this character”.

How do I get my players to like him?

15 thoughts on “How do I make a NPC that is dead inside and disinterested in the world around him while also being someone whom my…”

  1. If the character doesn’t have an interesting personality, then they need to have an interesting position in the setting. Now interesting doesn’t mean important, it just means the character needs to be doing something that makes the party interested.

    Example, I have a knight that has taken oaths of silence, and spends all his time praying in the church. What made the party interested in him is that he’s the only one besides the caretaker that defends the Abby from a religious cult that controls the town, and want to destroy all the “false” idols inside and replace them with their pantheon. And the party stumbled across them while they were chasing off some of the inquisitors.

    if your character doesn’t have an interesting personality, or an interesting role, then you have to ask yourself”What is the point of even mentioning them in the fiction?”

  2. Media can draw viewers in to sulky, disengaged characters by giving them a lot of spotlight time, favorable direction and cinematography. In the visually sparse environment of verbal roleplaying, that’s so much harder to pull off I would normally recommend against even trying.

    All I have for you is two things:

    1. Have the players meet the character when he is fully engaged, and if they DO come to like him, then start to have him pull away so they feel the absence. But bear in mind step one itself is not at all reliable, and forcing the issue guarantees an unwelcome shift into comedy or violence.

    2. Send some time reflecting why this character is appealing to you. Probably something needs to be expressed even if an RPG isn’t the right medium. You could journal as this character, or write fiction about them. I have had several surprising insights along these lines myself over the years.

  3. My honest advice? Remove them from the party or scrap them. Making a DMPC, playing in the same game you’re running, is at best risky and as a general rule is bad GMing. That tragic love story is a story you want to tell, and by inserting this character into the party you are essentially saying you’re going to tell it and the PCs are going to watch you tell it even if it’s something they don’t really care about. You are using the PCs as an audience rather than actors; that’s neither being a fan of the characters nor playing to find out what happens.

    So. Take them out of the party, give them something interesting and immediate for the PCs to invest in as Patrick Schenk​​ suggests, and if the PCs don’t bite, put it in the NaNoWriMo pile and move on with the game.

  4. Anytime my players have come to really take an interest in a NPC, it’s because the NPC did something that surprised both them AND me. The NPC filled some niche we needed filled in the story, and then took on a life of its own.

    Example: I introduced a wannabe wizard into an urban fantasy game purely as comic relief. He’d come by the shop where they PCs hung out, and he’d buy tarot cards and crystals and try to get them to take him on adventures. Finally, one day, he happened to come in after they received a package with the severed head of one of their informants. The PCs responded to his cajoling by showing this to him to scare him off. He damn near fainted (because that’s what the comic relief does) – and then, while the players were joking about using him as bait (and not being clear about whether they were speaking in-character!), the guy chimed in to shakily offer, “I’ll do it. I want to help.” Because, you know, that was his whole deal – his niche was comic relief, but his motivation was a sincere desire to BE somebody, to DO something in a city that needed help. They took him up on it and he ended up being one of their favorite NPCs of all time.

    I think the “leave out pointless moody guy” advice is good advice, but if you’re bummed by those responses and really want to include him, my advice is to give him a niche to fill and give him a motivation. Maybe the party needs a healer, or someone who can disarm traps, or someone who can read old texts, or someone who knows local history or wilderness or criminal dealings or whatever. Maybe the story needs someone to be comic relief, or deliver hints on puzzles in-character, or foreshadow the dangers of what the PCs could become if they’re not careful. Figure out what use he can have, and then figure out why he’d bother traveling with the PCs at all, and then see what happens. He may surprise you all eventually.

  5. Handle it through a cut scene. The player characters might not know it but the players will. It is the players you want. So run a short cut scene, maybe with a villain, featuring the NPC. Show a time where he was happier and then suffered a loss, through no fault of his own, and then became darker.

    If you think of the game more like a story in some ways you are better off. This is a narrative technique that lets your players know a bit about the world and the bad guy’s plans on occasion to help stimulate the imagination and maybe get them excited to go after a bad guy. To know that the Bad Guy has “Plans”.

    So, What I would do is take your next bad guy and have a short scene that is a narrative with the NPC where the bad guy does bad things and affects the NPC negatively, then show how the NPCs life got darker. This can foreshadow events or help lay out some ground work in a font. Also, In the narrative give the players something to grab on to as far as hope to bring the NPC back from the brink.

  6. I am in total agreement with James Etheridge​ here. You seem to want advice on playing a GMPC, Taylor Main​. My advice? Don’t play a GMPC.

    You’re the GM. That means you play everything in the world other than the protagonists. Being the protagonists is your players job. Don’t force them to share that spotlight with you.

    You have a story you want to tell with this character. That’s fine. But you either need to wait until you get to play as a PC when someone else is GMing, or you need to write a book.

  7. So, on recap… if a character isn’t going to be socially engaging, then they need to be narratively engaging. He also shouldn’t be beyond hope of redemption, possibly giving some players a natural goal when interacting with him (“I want to heal this man”). Plus if he is part of the party, then he should act as a tool that the party was missing.

    But perhaps more importantly, they should act as “story bait”. If the party doesn’t want to talk with him then he should just fade away. Only if the party is interested in him should he become center stage.

    Finally, don’t do it. I’ll admit, that ain’t bad advice. In fact I’m not entirely sure this is a good idea! But nothing ventured nothing gained, right?

    P.S. Jason Tocci, I LOVE the idea that the character himself is a foreshadowing. Definitely going to use that.

  8. Make it personal. The jilted girlfriend is somebody’s sister, or he is somebody’s best school old friend. Or maybe something huge depends on him marrying the girl like the future of the empire (because he is the heir to the throne who denied his heritage to flee his responsibility).

  9. I was asking because including a GMPC usually means the GM wants to be a PC along with the players, or that they want to tell a specific story. Neither are really a good thing to do.

    If you want to play as a PC, that’s cool, but pass the GMing torch to someone else. Trying to do both at the same time is a conflict of interests.

    Trying to tell a specific story as GM leads to railroading. You’re already asking how you can get your players to care about your NPC. Instead, you should let that happen organically through play. Follow where the PCs lead and flesh out the NPCs they end up being interested in.

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