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Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four


Hello Johnn,

I just got through reading Issue 25 ( NPC Parley Tricks: http://www.roleplayingtips.com/issue25.html ) and I thought I would throw in some stuff I do, or have seen, to help flush out the NPCs a little more.

1. Drink Plenty Of Liquids!


This may sound silly, but I find that when I GM I tend to be loud and boisterous and my throat gets parched halfway through a game. You have to have some saliva in your mouth in order to keep articulating and speaking as your NPCs. I strongly suggest carbonated water (Perrier). Soda pop and beer work fine too, but too much caffeine isn't good for you and alcohol has a tendency to make you roll the dice off the table constantly.

[Johnn: I've never liked Perrier, but I've just discovered a new drink: Perrier or club soda with a freshly squeezed slice of lime or lemon. The fruit adds great flavour, the carbonation still scours the skin off your tongue like a good soda should, and there's no sugar-low tiring and drying you out afterwards.

Don't take this drink to the wrong side of town though, if you know what I mean.]

2. Add Personality Quirks To Your NPCs


This I find is one of the best ways to remind the PCs who it is they are talking to, even if you don't change your voice at all.

* I have an NPC that scratches his hair all the time.

* Usually when I am speaking as an NPC king, I stand up and talk over the PCs heads, even if I am talking TO them.

* One of my favorite NPCs is a pompous ass who thinks he is good looking. Whenever he talks he smiles a lot and he changes his profile, often sweeping the entire room with his "good looks".

* Another NPC I use has a perpetual cold. Whenever he talks, I throw in a sniffle between sentences.

Don't over-do it though. If you exaggerate these quirks too much it might detract from what you are saying and you will just appear goofy. Be subtle. Folding your hands behind your back will do a lot to convey the attitude of an NPC who is serious or militant. Stroking your chin when you listen to a PC will give off the impression that the NPC is intelligent or very perceptive.

[Johnn: OK, here's where we as a group can really help each other out. Please email any personality quirks you have used or can think of and I'll make one big list for everyone to use as a wonderful game master NPC-making tool. Email to: feedback@roleplayingtips.com ]

3. Use Clothes And Props


You don't have to go very far to get them. A simple coat with a hood, a hat, some sunglasses or even a stick can do wonders to add some flair to your NPCs.

For example, in my games, there is a strange, yet enigmatic NPC who sometimes shows up mysteriously to give the PCs some advice in the form of riddles. When I announce that this person is approaching the group, one of the PCs immediately jumps up and places a cowl on my head to keep my face hidden. I still don't know why my PCs do this, but they have already set it in their minds that this particular NPC keeps her face hidden. It adds to her "mysteriousness" I guess.

Sometimes I will have an NPC use a cane or a stick but I generally find that as soon as I place the prop down, one of the players HAS to pick it up to fidget with it. So when not in use, place the prop behind you and out of sight. Players won't covet what they can't see.

[Johnn: I've got a "Props" issue coming up and would love to hear your props examples, experiences and ideas. Again, when done, I'll put all your feedback into an online resource for you to tap into. Email to: feedback@roleplayingtips.com ]

4. Physical Contact


Yes, yes, I know that this is a big no no, but hear me out for a second. If your players are really okay with this, you can simulate some forms of physical contact.

For example: * When an NPC strikes a deal with the PCs, why not shake on it?

* I have an NPC who is this big "mother-hen" like character who just looooooves the PCs. Whenever the PCs come to see her, she HAS to give them all a hug. So yes, I would physically get up, run around the table and give each player a hug.

Now I would only suggest this with a group that you are friends with. I mean you don't want to creep anybody out. Usually this kind of physical contact is amusing and usually sends the players into a fit of giggles. But, the players identify the NPC almost instantly with this kind of act and nothing causes the players to give you their complete and undivided attention more than when you touch them in some way.

DO NOT, for the love of all that is holy, hurt the players or make them uncomfortable. Usually I do this just once when introducing the NPC for the first time. After that, trust me, players remember an NPC that shook their hand vigorously or placed a cold hand on their shoulder to get their attention (that cold bottle of Perrier does wonders).

[Johnn: although this is a touchy subject do any of you have other examples? Physical contact does affect us more than words and pictures and it adds another great dimension to the game--just heed Marc's warnings.

My examples: * Whispering in the player's ear when an NPC does so

* Pushing the player in the shoulder with your index finger (gently) when a bully NPC does so

* Laying a hand on a player's head as a priest does so when giving a blessing or casting a spell

Email other suggestions to: feedback@roleplayingtips.com ]

5. Use pictures


Hey look, I'm a 220 lb, 30 year old male. Do you think I can convincingly act out a female NPC who has the looks that can make Cindy Crawford jealous?

Get a magazine, flip through some pages and cut out the face of someone who looks appropriate. Then, using a paper clip, attach it to the back of your GMing screen so that all players can see whenever you are playing that particular NPC. You don't have to do it for all NPCs, just the ones you feel you will have trouble trying to convey. Don't use famous celebrities. Use those models you see in magazine cigarette/alcohol ads.

[Johnn: I use Magic cards and other collectible cards for the same use as a prop. Also, RPG books and supplements have great illustrations of people that you can photocopy, cut up and hand out.

What other sources can you think of?

Email to: feedback@roleplayingtips.com ]

Hope these help! --Marc R. Kinsville marck@CAE.CA

Have more fun at every game!

Johnn Four

* Coat of Arms 1.2a
* Promisance
* World of Phaos 0.9.2
Is Magic Armor Lighter Than Standard Armor of the Same Type?
Yes indeed
No, never!
In 1E yes, in 2E no
Only for encumbrance
Of course it is
Not in my world
* And-Mag.com

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