View Full Version : Keeping an infuriating NPC alive. [Star Wars] [Deep-66 Stayout!]

2009-08-02, 10:33 PM
Deep-66 group, do not proceed.

So I've developed an NPC that's done an excellent job of pissing the PCs off ICly, though I think they've taken a shine to him OoCly. I originally made him up when I had no idea what to do next, and I'd like to find a way for him to fit in more regularly and - this is important - not get killed without me resorting to railroady techniques. He's no BBEG, so he's going to have to rely on trickery to stay alive, not superior resources or fighting power - and without his secret being exposed early. And I'm going to need help here, because there's six PCs each with a variety of ways to overcome encounters, versus one him.

I already had one Jedi use the other two Jedi to chain Move Object her up to his fleeing spaceship so she could grab on and saber through the window. :smalleek: She managed to put a dent in it before falling off; luckily, the character's consistent terrible luck with climb rolls persisted.

Name is Wudan the Winsome. Young male twi'lek thief, with big space goggles and a painted mustache on his lips. The typical smart-ass anti-hero in it for only himself, too - and he got to pick up a theme song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEKEPqdt62w&fmt=18) when we did the opening crawl today, since last time we closed out in the middle of the encounter with him.

He's a holo and electronics expert. The party initially encountered him between a ship he'd stolen from one of the party members before the game started (claiming it was his), and their current ship. When they got tired of him talking and the techhead realized that slave circuit OSes were being installed on their ship, they tried to attack him only to find out it was just a hologram. (That's when the Jedi did the piggyback plan as he tried to escape.)

He managed to eventually give the party a slip since he got a headstart on running to take him out of visual range and used transponder decoys attached to missiles to throw them off, but it was hard - the party was expecting a decoy since they knew he couldn't leave atmo with as much cockpit damage as he'd taken, and my luck outrolling the techhead couldn't last forever.

He has a reason to show up again - this is Dark Times and he's figured out that they're carrying Jedi along, and has let them know as much - but I don't want to make him part of the Jedi hunters so much as a third force, and that tenuous connection kinda leans him towards being part of the Jedi hunters. Right now the party is trying to prove that the Jedi were setup so they can 'prove it' to Palpatine discreetly as I'm going by the ANH novelization which portrayed the Emperor as being kindly but doddering and impotent - I figure that's the face he shows most of the Galaxy still - so they're going to Kamino.

Also throwing around some ideas for twists on his character. Possibly he's actually a young, heavily paralyzed and cyberneticized Rodian (injured since a child) who uses their mastery of holotech and mechanics to present the dashing figure of Wudan the Winsome to the world. (I was sorta thinking a less evil Jeremiah Serd when I dreamt Wudan up - I was listening to the Real Adventures theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LokxUx_kpR8&feature=related&fmt=18).) Sort of as a parallel to Darth Vader.

2009-08-03, 12:32 AM
Even if you know nothing about the system, just some suggestions for how to generally keep an annoying NPC character alive would be appreciated. I want to give them a legitimate chance to stop him early if they're good... I just don't want it to be easy as pie.

2009-08-03, 01:08 AM
Note:This might all be really obvious/generic stuff, so I apologize, but I figured it's a start if nothing else.

In my experience there're a few key things that must (and must not) be done to keep NPCs alive.


1) OOC enjoyment. Your players have to actually like the character. Either through amusement value, rule of cool, whatever. It seems like you've already started to amuse them there, so you may have that set. Otherwise, play him up as an interesting character, give them a reason to not just consider him a generic friend or foe.

2) IC value. He has to have some value to them alive. The anti-hero that keeps fighting you for your prize, is one that most players are going to want to eliminate ASAP. So he'll need to be useful, maybe he provides discount parts, valuable services that no one else can, plot hooks that just happen to advance his own agenda while appearing to advance theirs, or maybe even common enemies a few times.

3) Trust. He'll need to [at least appear to] be trustworthy. Smuggler's code, personal code of honor, etc. Sort of references back to 2, even with IC value, if there's no trust factor, they may find him to be too much of a liability, esp considering what they're trying to do.

Now for a few character things
4) Contingency plans. Yes, NPCs have the advantage of "knowing" what they're doing and acting on a slightly different timeframe than players (ie the whole planning stage of GMing). If he's as tricky as you want him to be, contingency plans can and should be his bread and butter.

5) Corollary to 4, he should use holo-projecting droids (or just droid facsimiles) whenever possible to avoid being caught in the act. Remote control may not be the best, but it'll keep him alive from angry players.

6) Play up the woobie factor (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheWoobie) if caught. Or maybe the classic girl pretending to be male due to <issues>. Actually, upon thinking further, that could be it if they are really twi'lek, since iirc females don't have much power in twi'lek society, so this alter ego could be a defense mechanism, escaped slave perhaps? Basically any sympathetic card you want to pull here on the off chance they capture him alive.


1) DMPC - You may want to keep him alive, but your players better not catch onto that. Few people like DMPCs, particularly if they're not aligned with the goals of the group.

2) Fudge rolls to save. Seems like an obvious one, but if he's saved "just by the skin of his teeth" too many times, it'll become pretty obvious that he's too close to being 1 if not already. If the dice decree his death, well burn force points or have him go out spectacularly.

3) Give him too much advantage of over the PCs or overabuse contingencies etc. Xanatos gambits are fun for the gambiteer, not so much fun the umpteenth time your players are caught in them. Subtlety is the key there.

2009-08-03, 01:25 AM
A neat encounter idea would be to have another group of thugs ambush him while he is sitting thinking he is safe. If the PC's enter the room have him sort of point at them and say they have company.

Thugs will see PC's with weapons drawn and react poorly and start a fight. He rolls back off his chair and through the thugs near him and makes a break for it while everyone is fighting. :P

2009-08-03, 01:32 AM
Dang. And here I was going to suggest duct-tape.

Hmm, always make it worth more to the party to keep him around and alive. The minute they feel able to get away with killing him is the minute they make the choice to act.

I'm suddenly struck by the image of a twi'lek sportacus now... (http://cacklinrose.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/sportacus.jpg)

2009-08-03, 02:26 AM
Some other things I can think to suggest, assuming you want to keep him as a sometimes antagonist, is to provide him with extenuating circumstances to keep him alive, for example a bigger, more immediate problem the players have to deal with. If he is presented as their primary opponent, they will not only try to take him out, they'll feel like they're supposed to. If he keeps showing up at inappropriate times when they've already got their hands full, he might be more of an annoyance than a serious threat to be killed.

I've had some fun running similar characters in the past, and I often enjoy playing up the good luck/bad luck swings that make such characters so interesting. He's obviously got things of his own to do, perhaps at the moment he's not particularily interested in chasing down the players. Maybe there's an entire other campaign taking place, in which he is the central character, that has nothing to do with the players. You can think up the crime boss for who he sometimes works, who has another job for him to take, and perhaps some background connection between the boss and the players. It just so happens that Wudan's latest hiest or feat of daring takes him to exactly where the players are. Maybe there's an external force co-ordinating things, maybe it's just dumb luck. But the players have obviously given him a hard time, maybe he's just as frustrated with them as they are with him.

It's a technique I've used to great effect to show my players that not all of the characters exist in the universe solely to interact with them. Some of them have their own adventures and problems, and would like nothing better than to never have to encounter these destructive individuals again. The fact that they keep meeting up and getting in each other's way is both amusing, and makes it easier for the players to see the character as an individual, rather than someone who exists solely to cause them trouble and to be killed.

Maybe after they've randomly foiled another one of his schemes, he'll make a point of showing up and trying to steal their ship out of spite. But as long as he's not the primary antagonist, he can strike while they're otherwise busy, counting on the distractions to aid him. Then when they track him down to recover their ship, they all encounter something, and have to work together to overcome it.

In one of my campaigns, I had a similar rogue who (due to the larger plot I had running, but with no deliberate intentions on his part), kept running afowl of the PCs and causing them trouble while they were trying to deal with the real villians, cussing and moaning loudly every time he saw them. Then, in one encounter, they were forced to work with him to save all of their skins, and by the time they got out of that, they enjoyed him enough OOC and respected him enough IC that they let him go, while being able to use him as an occasional helpful contact. Then, much later on when I was pressed to come up with a random adventure on the fly, I had them trying to steal a valuable artifact for a buyer. Once they got inside, they bumped into the rouge again, and this time, rather than fight each other, they just called the whole thing off and went out for beers with him!

2009-08-03, 08:46 AM
I'm suddenly struck by the image of a twi'lek sportacus now... (http://cacklinrose.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/sportacus.jpg)

That's actually very similar to how he's supposed to look. Kinda freaky.

@Kylarra - I actually specifically made Wudan a male because I'm tired of seeing only female Twi'lek sex objects. Though if I go along with the "I was dumped in a vat of lava and have cybernetic parts everywhere", she certainly won't sound as sexy.

I hope.

Still, I don't like appealing to 'females are weak', and most of the party is female...

You guys are giving some very good advice, thank you - my biggest bind right now is how to make him useful. He's indicated a willingness to try and take their ship to leave them stranded and an interest in the fact that they carry Jedi. It can't have secretly been to help them, since any reasonable person would have tried talking first. He even installed screensavers of himself all over their ship's computers.

...Ah! Wait, as I was writing, something just came to me. Wudan knows where they've been - he copied their hyperspace logs - and said as much. He was going to check out the place on Alderaan where they met their contacts.

The party is currently working for Jar-Jar - it's 10 years before Force Unleashed, no one's come up with an organized resistance against Palpatine just yet, and Jar-Jar honestly believes the Emperor is being used by his advisors. But Jar-Jar's staff (not him, though, I figured he'd picked up a few points of Wis after 6 years in the Senate...) trusts Grand Moff Tarkin. I was originally going to have this result in Imperial Forces meeting them at Kamino - instead, how about Kamino goes fairly uneventfully (though I'm going to treat the shut down cloning facilities as haunted, due to the Force distortion that clones create which is mentioned in the Thrawn trilogy) - and when the party heads back to Alderaan where it all started, Wudan's waiting for them to try and help them.

His employer (what's a good crime boss besides a Hutt? How about a Bothan crime lord?) just got double-crossed by the Empire and is now making helping the Jedi his business. And his employer got word somehow that there's a security leak in Jar-Jar's group...

The issue is him being believed without me having a handy convenient Imperial Death Squad show up.

2009-08-03, 08:53 AM
@Kylarra: Nice list, but you forgot one of the most obvious for this campaign..

DONT: RP him like Jar-jar Binks. Especially the voice, but the low int and plot armor as well.. :smallamused:

2009-08-03, 11:26 AM
@Kylarra: Nice list, but you forgot one of the most obvious for this campaign..

DONT: RP him like Jar-jar Binks. Especially the voice, but the low int and plot armor as well.. :smallamused:I'm sorry, what were you saying? I know of no "Jar-Jar Binks". :smallamused:

2009-08-03, 11:39 AM
Well its Star Wars right? If he "dies" he can just be put back together with robot parts. That's one solution if the players actually get him, but foolishly leave the body behind.

Another idea similar to that one is that Wudan has a special poison capsule in his teeth. When he's close to negatives he breaks that poison capsule. It puts him to sleep just like Juliet. No visible breathing or such. He just seems dead. Then later on the poison wears off and he comes back to life. Again, that only works if the players don't throw the corpse into space or something.

3rd option is give him a jet pack, detonator, and a breathing mask. Wherever he is, even in space, he can make his getaway. Blow up a wall and fly away.

4th option, Deus Ex Machina. The players have finally gotten Wudan to "surrender." As he bows to them submissively he presses a button on his left boot. That button releases...
And then Wudan gets away while they fight the huge beastey.

2009-08-03, 11:43 AM
I'm sorry, what were you saying? I know of no "Jar-Jar Binks". :smallamused:

Hey, I've actually used Jar-Jar as an NPC well, to the point that I had one player raging at me that they were enjoying his presence. I had destroyed their reality.

I'll keep these things in mind, but so far the PCs have either stabbed every corpse they ended up with, with a lightsaber, or taken it to be handled. :smalleek:

2009-08-03, 11:48 AM
My players are even more brutal. They execute fallen opponents by throwing them into a portable hole to asphyxiate. D&D obviously, not Star Wars.

2009-08-03, 02:11 PM
I agree witht hose above. Make sure he has something of value to offer the PCs, be it a physical object or simply his connexions with important people/factions. A reason to keep him alive. It's best if he broadcasts this to the PCs, making it clear he's willing to play ball.

Right now he is presenting himself as a threat to the PCs, and if he doesn't remedy that he will die soon.