What are some of the biggest problems you find that you run into when you want players to engage NPCs in a social…

What are some of the biggest problems you find that you run into when you want players to engage NPCs in a social…

What are some of the biggest problems you find that you run into when you want players to engage NPCs in a social encounter?

What are the best ways that you keep a social encounter moving forward?

10 thoughts on “What are some of the biggest problems you find that you run into when you want players to engage NPCs in a social…”

  1. Motivations, questions and agendas. What are the NPCs? What are the PCs? Set them a slight opposition for quiet scenes (the barkeep wants you all to move to another table because this table is for a deceased hero’s family). Set them in serious opposition (the king wants to declare war on the PC’s nation over access to river trade).

    I don’t really run into too much in the way of problems. I find that DW’s “Yes..but at a cost” and give the players options over the cost is a great way to have NPC interactions. Yes. You got a 7-9 result, you can convince the sorceress to help take the curse off, but the cost is that she falls in love with the PC’s nemesis or they have to sacrifice one of their favorite magic items to lift the curse. 6- result, she STILL will help, but now the PCs have been recruited into liberating a hippogriff from a royal zoo.

    Having an agenda for the NPC quickly sketched out is a good way to quickly react to the crazyness the players and the dice can visit on the NPC. The sorceress’s agenda is to find other women to teach her mystic (or dark) arts, the PC nemesis could be one way to do that. The PCs could be another.

    Also, what you can learn from therapy works great in role playing games. Have NPCs ask questions.. you might be surprised by the answers. “Why do you adventure? What is the most interesting place you’ve visited? Who is your daddy and is he as rich as me?” They can sometimes be flavor questions, sometimes they can be really deep and penetrating. Depends on the NPC, the scene, the player and the situation.

  2. One thing I’ve played before at a con was someone ran social situations like combat, with HP, conditions and all, reskinning Hack and Slash, Volley, Defy Danger and Defend to have social triggers. I’d attack the diplomat with facts, they’d take “social damage” and I’d defend against their insult with Con because its hard to shake me, or with dex because I’m a fast talker, etc.

    Was interesting, not sure if it’d work long term, but it helped counter the fact that DW’s crunch (for what it is) lies very much in its combat and dungeon crawling and not much in its social side.

  3. As GM, as soon as a social encounter starts to feel unfocused, I do this:

    1) Ask myself what does the NPC want, and roleplay to that.

    2) Ask the PC what they want, and how they plan to get it.

    3) See what the ensuing dialogue produces.

    4) Call for a roll if necessary.

    5) End the encounter as soon as either party gets what they want or we hit a stalemate.

    This tends to wrap stuff up pretty quickly. If everyone is enjoying the proceedings I won’t try to force it, but as soon as things start to meander I do the above so we can cut and move on.

  4. Damian Jankowski Sorry, I missed your private post. Yes, I’ve played quite a bit of Burning Wheel, both running and playing, if that is what you are referring to.

  5. My biggest problem when it comes to NPCs is appearance. What do they look like? The only tables I have are online, and that means I can’t access them if I don’t have network access.

  6. Jmz Haz Pro-Tip just describe someone you know in objective terms “He is tall, lanky, with flaxen hair and a crooked nose”.

    Hell you can do it to players at the table and 9/10 they dont notice

  7. Jmz Haz: I follow Judd Karlman’s “rule of three”. He got it somewhere else, but the gist is just use 3 descriptors because the players will not remember more than that.

  8. Yeah, the rule of 3 is great.

    Jmz Haz, if you own a 30-sided die, the D30 Sandbox Companion from New Big Dragon Games has comprehensive NPC generation tables:

    drivethrurpg.com – d30 Sandbox Companion

    I also put together some for Freebooters on the Frontier, my own game-in-progress, which you are free to download and print out (settlement events tables included):


    When I have prep time for NPCs I’ll roll up a bunch of stuff on these tables and pull an idea together. If I need something on the fly I’ll roll alignment/motivation and then four times on the “Details” table.

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