Wednesday, October 30, 2013

[Behind the Screen] DWAiTAS: The Exiles of Time - Mechanics and NPC Portrayals

Last night's game went okay, ended up finishing on a cliffhanger because it ran a little long, but I think people enjoyed it. Just a couple of problems cropped up.

First, a chase situation came up because my monsters this week were designed so that fighting them wasn't really an option: just touching them is potentially lethal, as Luke's character discovered when his arm got infested by a living crack. The problem was, since we were in a chase situation and I hadn't really had a chance to use the system's chase mechanic, I decided to give it a shot. Ironically, for a mechanic which is supposed to reflect characters running from scary things, it actually slows things down quite a bit. Part of that is because we hadn't used the mechanic before, so I was muddling through trying to get a feel for it. Second was, I should really have a sheet with everybody's relevant stats and Speed noted down on it, so that I'm not having to note it all down right there and then. But a large part of it is probably that we hadn't done it before, so maybe if we do it another few times it'll become more fluid.

The second issue, and one of the major issues I'm struggling with, is handling NPC allies. Part of the problem is just remembering that they're there and they should be doing stuff as well, not just being part of the scenery, I had two to keep track of for most of last night's scenario, and in retrospect there were points where I should have used them to provide a bit of exposition, or at least shown that they were still involved in proceeding, but all of my focus was on the PCs.

The other part of the problem is just that I don't know how to run compelling NPCs. During the L5R campaign I was part of last year, we had a few memorable NPCs who people became invested in. I wanted to try and bring a bit of that into my own campaign this year. Unfortunately, my attempt at this seems to be backfiring. I gave the players an NPC stand-in for the missing Doctor, so that they weren't completely screwed if they wanted to do more with the TARDIS than just randomly riding it wherever it takes them (and also to provide a bit of backstory that ties into and sheds light on the main arc).

Unfortunately, despite it being exactly what I wanted to avoid, she's coming across as a Mary Sue - even though I've kept her mostly in the background, so as not to steal the show from the PCs - and at least one of the PCs (and the PC's player) outright distrusts her. So, I've had to fudge things a little, ignoring tech level penalties to allow the PCs to use the TARDIS in her stead. So, at this point, I'm seriously considering just writing her out entirely.

So, I think that's one of my main weaknesses so far: portraying NPCs. If anyone has any tips on how to portray recurring NPCs, I'd appreciate the advice.

In the meantime, I've got a NaNoWriMo kickoff party to go to, and planning to do for NaNo and the next session/episode of the DWAiTAS campaign, so I'll see you later folks!

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