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Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four


1. Use Quirks As Plot Hooks


Quirks can do double-duty for your campaign, saving you time & mental energy.

First, they can enhance your stories, campaign and game world by making your NPCs more 3-dimensional and interesting. That's the standard reason for using quirks.

Second, and an often under-used technique by GMs, they can serve as realistic and natural plot hooks. They are great ways to draw your players into your stories and encounters.

Ask yourself how or why did the quirk develop in the NPC? What is the story behind the strange behavior? Then make the story unresolved, unfinished or open-ended so that the PCs have a chance to get involved (i.e. whatever caused the NPC's quirk is still out there...and now the PCs have learned about it, what will they do?).

For example, a barkeep at the PCs' favorite tavern has the stuttering quirk. The first time the characters meet the barkeep you assign him that quirk and he is no longer a boring, faceless NPC.

Then, a few game weeks and two game sessions later, the PCs are chatting with the barkeep and discover that he has only been stuttering for a little while. In fact, before "the horrible event" the barkeep was able to speak perfectly. A few months ago, the man and his fiance were travelling to the local church to arrange the upcoming ceremony's details when they were waylaid by thieves. He put up a fight but was eventually knocked unconscious. And when he awoke his life savings (to pay for the wedding) and his fiance were gone...

This little encounter would really entertain your players. It's a sad story and there's a chance that the PCs could get involved and make things right again. But, also, it reveals something new about someone the characters already know. Your game world will seem deeper and more interesting.

So, figure out the how's or why's behind NPC quirks and use them to introduce new stories or side-adventures.

2. Use Quirks To Enhance Your Story


You can not only use quirks as plot hooks but also as ways to enhance your existing story. Once you figure out the story behind the quirk you can use this information to tie people, events and your game world together.

For example, our barkeep from tip #1 began stuttering because of a traumatic incident that happened months ago. In a flash of inspiration you decide that the barkeep speaks certain words perfectly clear and this tips the PCs off that there's something more behind the speech impediment. They ask questions and the story comes out. And the party now has a new lead on the group of bandits they've already been searching for...The barkeep's quirk and story were a great way to help the PCs and your campaign without seeming contrived or forced.

3. Assign Quirks Only To Certain NPCs


Not every NPC should have a quirk. It would be difficult for you to constantly create new quirks for all of the people the PCs meet or learn about. Also, you may alter the feeling or mood of your campaign if everyone in it has strange behaviors.

Every major NPC that the characters interact with should have distinct personalities. And quirks can help make personalities distinct. So, feel free to give major NPCs one or more quirks.

For your minor NPCs though, sprinkle your quirks around. Many of your NPCs will seem to be normal during their brief interactions with the PCs so there's no need to give quirks to them yet. Other NPCs have unusual quirks but actively try to hide them, so they don't need to be given quirks right away either.

As a rule of thumb, give every third or fourth minor NPC that the characters meet a quirk. Unless the PCs are going out and meeting a lot of people in a session, that ratio lets you guess how many quirks you'll need to prepare before the game. Knowing what to prepare is often half the battle.

4. Use Secret & Intermittent Quirks


In tip #2 we discussed how revealing the story behind a quirk can be very entertaining and adds great depth to your campaign. Using secret or intermittent quirks has the same great effect.

Make it so that some quirks are only revealed when a certain event or circumstance triggers them. And some might only show up during stress, excitement or when feeling a specific emotion. Your players will be surprised and very interested when an NPC they've known suddenly displays a quirky behavior.

5. Use Quirks For Monsters, Magic Items And Cultures Too


A quirk is a way to make someone, or something, different and special. Do your players say "oh, it's just another +1 dagger"? Can they use Star Trek and Star Wars to figure out all of your alien races? Do they heave heavy sighs when being delayed by boring bodyguards or another pack of kobolds?

Use quirks to turn the usual into the unusual. Next time a character starts to put the new +1 dagger into the bottom of their knapsack with the others, casually mention the dagger's strange design or unusual alloy. Make those standard bodyguards absent minded or have them constantly looking over their shoulders. And gives those humans in the kingdom next door a generally shared common trait like being neat freaks or slow talkers.

These quirks will probably not affect things game rules- wise, but they sure make a difference in game play.

6. Quirks Can Be Serious


A quirk basically translates into unusual behavior for the NPC. And it's tempting to turn quirks into humourous and silly roleplaying events. But, constant silliness soon becomes tiresome in some campaigns, so try to make your quirks more serious in nature.

For example, a person with a fear of small dogs doesn't have to react by jumping into the arms of the nearest person and screaming hysterically. The reaction could be more serious such as running away without a word, drawing a weapon and attacking, verbally assaulting the dog's owner, chewing his lips until they bleed, becoming quiet and unco-operative.

Resist the temptation (and, it seems I am always tempted!) to turn quirks and the encounter into a comedy.

7. Give Quirks Different Aspects So They Remain Unique


After creating the fifth NPC that likes to pace and wear green hats, your limited simply of quirks are going to become boring. They will no longer make your NPCs different or special.

To fix this, try to come up with a special angle or feature of the quirk before assigning it. Come up with a different aspect so that NPCs with similar quirks are not the exact same.

Examples of things you can change to make quirks different:

* Frequency: does the quirk appear all the time, every few minutes, a few times a day?...

* Degree of affliction: many quirks can have ranges of effects from mild to severe.

* Odd link: whenever the quirk appears other strange things often happen. Coincidence?

* Groupings: rather than giving several people different quirks, give them all the same one(s). That's also a great way to create a different session mood...strangeness, surrealness, magical. And I bet you have already started thinking of some plot hooks for this, haven't you? :)

* Trigger: have the quirk appear only under special circumstances and make these circumstances different for every NPC who shares the same quirk.

8. Create A Quirks List To Reference During Play & 40 Quirk Examples


Take the 40 quirks below, all of them submitted by Tips readers, paste them into a new Notepad page and print them out. Whenever you need a quirk while planning or during play, choose a quirk from the list, put a checkmark by it and try to give it a different angle before using it. When all the quirks have been checkmarked, make a new list or cycle through the old list again, constantly putting new aspects on the quirks as you use them.

40 Quirks


1. Absent minded.
2. Obsessive about being perfectly clean and neat.
3. If what's happening isn't about their interests or what they need, they slowly fade off into some unknown train of thought.
4. Smooths out wrinkles in their clothing during conversations.
5. Wrings their hands.
6. Fears strangers.
7. Keeps looking over their shoulder.
8. Keeps shifting their weapon from hand to hand.
9. Has mood swings.
10. Gets angered at strange, specific things.
11. Paranoid with EXTREMELY wide eyes.
12. Uses the same hand gestures in conversation as they do when casting spells.
13. Actively starts pacing whenever still for a period of time.
14. Obsessed with a specific weapon, item, person, place or monster, often telling long, boring stories about it. 15. Rolls their eyes when talking about other people.
16. Is easily cowed.
17. Gossips about other people and makes things up about others.
18. Cannot make decisions. Asks others what to do several times before deciding.
19. Bad flatulence.
20. Speaks slow and deliberately.
21. Flips hair out of the way arrogantly.
22. Chews lips and flip-flops over decisions.
23. Snooty. Talks with their nose up and looks down on people.
24. Uses a dismissive hand wave (fingers pointing down with a sweeping motion).
25. Gives belly laughs and rocks back and forth in their seat.
26. Very nervous. Darting eyes, wringing hands, quavering voice.
27. Speaks in a low, deep voice, pausing after every sentence to carefully choose their words.
28. Constantly changes their gaze, making eye-contact with everyone around them again and again, in rapid succession.
29. Near-sighted. Squints at whoever is talking to them.
30. Is well-bred and waves their hand around in the air all the time, as though to fan away the unpleasant odor of the PCs.
31. Has a nasal voice.
32. Has a whiny voice.
33. Has a breathy voice, like Marilyn Monroe.
34. Uses a "signature phrase" (i.e. "Jinkies!" "By the Sons of Warvan, you shall be avenged!" "Holy rusted metal, Batman!" "Tubular!" "Make it so!" "Shards and Shells!" "By your command.").
35. Uses a few words of gibberish that represents phrases from their native language. Works especially well for swear words and exclamations.
36. Uses the same vocal pause repeatedly (i.e. ummmm, er, like, and so, uh).
37. Speaks very quickly.
38. Speaks very slowly like they are not intelligent.
39. Speaks very slowly as if it isn't their native tongue and they are translating things in their head.
40. Looks boldly at the PCs with tight lips and narrowed eyes.

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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