Deeper Dialogue

I have even ignored game stats in favor of writing down motivations and personality traits for NPCs. Unless it’s vital to the game in progress, I could care less what the crunchy statistics look like as long as I know why an NPC is there and enough about them to make it seem plausible. My notes from any given session might be a hot mess sometimes, but as long as I get the NPC name, a vocal tick, physical quirk, personality note, or something else to vibe on next session, I could really care less what the NPC’s Agility score looked like.


A little GM advice for making character conversations slightly more meaningful, or maybe having more of them.

My advice to the Game Master looking for that added bit of depth to their game is to know your NPCs as if you had made the character and you were going to play him or her yourself. One of my favorite moments as a GM is when my players start dialogues in character with an NPC outside of a game session.

One of my players would ask me random questions like, “What would Selena do if I threw all of her tofu out of the fridge along with all of her salad fixings?”

She would whimper and look innocently at the party and ask what she was supposed to eat. Selena was an NPC vegetarian werewolf in my Werewolf the Apocalypse game in college. She had wandered in from the cold and taken up residence with a bunch of Fianna that lived together. It just got crazier from there. So many great roleplaying moments came from that one NPC, including several that happened out of session.

Personality traits are like building blocks for NPCs.

This is probably not a new concept for some GMs. I write down one outstanding personality trait or quirk for a minor, throwaway NPC like a stable hand the group might only meet once briefly. I write down three if it’s someone the group will interact with in a meaningful way or if they will see the NPC again. I write down six traits like I was designing the character as a player for regularly occurring characters. The bonus perk to this system is you can turn a minor NPC into a full fledged party retainer by adding more descriptors each time they meet him or her.

I have even ignored game stats in favor of writing down motivations and personality traits for NPCs. Unless it’s vital to the game in progress, I could care less what the crunchy statistics look like as long as I know why an NPC is there and enough about them to make it seem plausible. My notes from any given session might be a hot mess sometimes, but as long as I get the NPC name, a vocal tick, physical quirk, personality note, or something else to vibe on next session, I could really care less what the NPC’s Agility score looked like. My notes will have names underlined, personality quirk circled, something about the NPC’s background a bit further down, maybe their appearance… you get the idea.

I can always patch in combat scores as I go or in between sessions. Combat turns in most games go in terms of seconds. There’s not a lot of meaningful dialogue when swords, fists, arrows, and so forth are flying. However, the dialogue before and after the combat? I’m going to want to remember what the character was like if it’s someone the group is going to be dealing with again.

More to come. Have a great week. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Have fun!

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa always looking for more work. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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