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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedSorcererGirl

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    Default Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    This will not quite be what you think.

    You know the old saw, how you make some highly powerful archmage with a detailed history and personality, your players will just call him "that old wizard guy," and its corrolary, that if you make some throwaway character that you don't even give a name to, they'll become obsessed with that character and seek them out more?

    Naturally, we need to figure out how to make it so those characters we put effort into will be highly valued by the players. One way I have tried to some effect is to make the players have to chase them. Presumably, the effort needed to get to them, and the resulting feeling achievement, will be associated with the character in question. Also, we are fascinated by those who hold themselves back from us.

    What are some other ways?
    I do, however, wonder what the poor strawman ever did to you. - Kish

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    It might help in some cases to sort of base the character's role / relevance on the way the players react to them. For example, the powerful, distinguished archmage that they just kind of blew off? He was actually a pompous, preening patsy who acts as the public face for the real archmage, the enigmatic 'throwaway character' who hired the first guy to handle all of the press stuff while he gets down to the serious business of entangling the mysteries of eternity.

    You don't even have to write up new backgrounds and personalities; just swap them around based on who your players respond to. The good news is that they do respond to some of your NPCs, which means that you're good at engaging their interest; some DMs can't get the players to see NPCs as anything more than potential victims or quest-givers.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    I think part of it comes from how the characters feel they can relate to an NPC. That powerful old wizard guy? The players can't relate to him because he's off doing god knows what and he's obviously from a different world.

    But Joe Schmoe, the NPC shopkeeper they latched onto and you came up with a name for after a full second's consideration? They know exactly what it's like to be him because in real life they probably ARE (or at one point have been) him, and consequently he's a lot more relatable- people tend to want hang around people like themselves.

    So what can you do to make Mr. Almighty more likable? Try making him seem more like a regular guy. Yeah, he talks to demons regularly, but that's just part of his day job- he still likes to go to the bar and have a couple drinks, or stop and listen to a poem by a wandering bard, just like the guy who runs the general store does.

    This is really the same reason politicians spend a lot of time trying to convince the public they're just regular Joes, so they can be more relatable to the majority of people. Try taking a look at the successful ways politicians have done stuff like that.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Paseo H View Post
    Naturally, we need to figure out how to make it so those characters we put effort into will be highly valued by the players.
    One way is not to put much effort in any of your characters in advance, but do it on the fly. Just design a cursory background and stats for everyone they meet, and if they become interested in or attached to that character, only then develop them in details.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Shpadoinkle View Post
    So what can you do to make Mr. Almighty more likable? Try making him seem more like a regular guy.
    This. All day. Joe Schmoe will always be a more likeable NPC than someone in a position of power.

    Example:

    Our early campaign had two notable NPCs. Abben, the gnommish alchemy shop owner, and Gizzy, the dwarven blacksmith. Who did our characters latch to? The blacksmith. Namely because we were exposed to him a lot more, as swords/axes and the like are cheaper than potions and other cocktails.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    I have a section on my game website that includes a list of globally famous people the players have heard of, each with a short story attached about their famous deeds.

    While they travel I have them hear stories, rumor and songs about these people at inns and taverns. Nothing in depth usually, more of "The minstrel in the corner is singing the tale of Urslag 100-Killer" or "the table next to you in talking loudly about how Barch the Bearman passed thru town last month and singlehandly killed that bandit group that tried to ambush him."

    Needless to say by the time they're ready to meet one of these famous people they are usually pretty nervous and treat them the way we would a sports star or actor/tress. I also promote my local famous people as well, usually giving the PCs 2-3 references before they actually meet them.

    Popping a famous arch wizard on the PCs with no build up doesn't usually concern them that much, having them finally meet a NPC that they've been hearing about everywhere they go is something else entirely.

    I also name every NPC in my games, and allow the PCs to get to know them better if they wish, it makes for future plot hooks. A player is a lot more likely to want to rescue the daughter of the blacksmith that he knows well and likes then random shopkeeper B who wants to hire them.
    Last edited by EvilDM; 2011-09-16 at 11:17 AM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    In addition to the other suggestions, you can also go either the "tell don't show" or "show don't tell" routes where

    Tell Don't Show
    The guy doesn't seem like hot stuff when you first meet him, but everyone else is deferential and speaks about the guy like he's done a lot.

    Show Don't Tell
    The guy makes an entrance/contribution (in person) that cannot be ignored.

    Note, these can be over-used to the point of being annoying, so I wouldn't have more than one or two people in a story get this sort of star treatment.

    However, usually I hedge my bets like Steward mentions... I'll move things around based on who the party reacts to. If I have a murder mystery and the party doesn't pay attention to the supposed-to-be-a-werewolf town sheriff and instead want to watch the tavernkeeper... now the tavernkeeper is the werewolf. Or he's covering for the werewolf.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedSorcererGirl

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    This is all good advice so far, however I think there might be a misunderstanding here.

    The issue is not so much about those two specific archetypes, it's about any given character who seem to be randomly liked or disliked, and figuring out how to ensure that a character is liked, especially if you aren't sure if it's the sort of character the players would like.

    Good advice on making them seem more approachable and relateable, though.
    I do, however, wonder what the poor strawman ever did to you. - Kish

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    I'm not quite sure how it happened but I was able to have my players take the Captian of the Guard very seriously despite previous breakouts of chaotic or 'down with the man' behavior from them and their characters. The players had just obtained a large cargo ship by winning a series of festival games at a portside town and decided on the spot to use it to get to the isle where they were headed rather than hiring a crew or buying passage on a ship headed that way. Many things had befallen them upon the high seas from earth elementals randomly appearing and attaching to their ship to sea nymphs trying to tempt them to take a dip to even a massive mimic taking the form of a ship and chasing them down. They were fairly beaten by the time they got to the city they were headed for, and had even lost and reincarnated the elven wizard as a gnoll. So when they were stopped by a lone Paladin (the Captian of the Guard) in a talking rowboat who appeared to stop their ship by raising his hand, they allowed themselves to be taken in for questioning without so much as a whimper. As it turned out they were in possession of a smuggling ship that had been used to transport illegal drugs. But they were able to prove their innocence through the questioning (it also helped that no one pinged as evil to the Paladin). For some reason the players respected this figure of Law and didn't try to agrue or fight against him. There was an accident that turned him into a demon later on, and they seemed reluctant to kill the Captian. Something about the way I played him made them respect him as a character and perhaps fear him as a potential opponent. I still don't know why.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Paseo H View Post

    The issue is not so much about those two specific archetypes, it's about any given character who seem to be randomly liked or disliked, and figuring out how to ensure that a character is liked, especially if you aren't sure if it's the sort of character the players would like.
    My advice here would be, don't try to force it. Present your character, see how the PCs react to them and run with it. If they are going to hate your arch mage them make the arch mage someone they should hate and then put them in a position were they have to deal with him (players love that). If they like your blacksmith then give them ways to like him more.

    No NPC concept survives contact with the PCs, but allowing them to fit the situation makes for a better game. Perhaps that friendly arch mage personality is just a front for a grumpy mage who just wants to be left alone, or needs a good public face to keep people from looking too deeply into what he's actually doing?
    Last edited by EvilDM; 2011-09-16 at 11:33 AM.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedSorcererGirl

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Hmm, perhaps similarly, one trick might be to downplay the character ahead of time, so that the players won't be expecting the moon and the stars, then actually meeting the character, they will seem better in comparison?
    I do, however, wonder what the poor strawman ever did to you. - Kish

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    BlueWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    I've had very bad luck in predicting how well individual NPC's are liked as well. As noted above, giving them an extremely down-to-earth characteristic, even if it's an unattractive one, can help make them more memorable and appealing. I had a halfling rogue who both picked his nose constantly AND made great sandwiches for the team during downtimes...and people enjoyed the seeming contradiction of this. But it easily could have gone the other way.
    Despair favours the status quo. It is a luxury we cannot afford. ~ Andrew Nikiforuk

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    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    I would like to get my players to respect ALL NPC's, including helpless villagers.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Well, it's kind of hit and miss in my experience. It would probably be easier to make the respected NPCs more important than to try and make them like the important ones.

    In the past, my group has become pretty attached with the NPCs who mean well and want to help them out, but who aren't up to their level. Players tend not to like DMPC type characters, even when they're not, strictly speaking, DMPCs. Especially if those characters are more powerful than they are. Try someone a few levels lower, or someone bard-like who can make it easier for the players to do their own jobs.

    One of my group's most-loved NPCs of all time was this friendly old nobleman in a D&D 3.5 campaign who would have them over for dinner to tell him (and his friends) about their adventures, and occasionally offer them work or discounted resources.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedSorcererGirl

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    In some cases I could see "making the liked ones important and vice versa" but 1. we shouldn't be molding the game COMPLETELY to the players and 2. what if you have a great design in mind that would be completely useless if we went by that rule?
    Last edited by Paseo H; 2011-09-17 at 08:45 AM.
    I do, however, wonder what the poor strawman ever did to you. - Kish

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Paseo H View Post
    In some cases I could see "making the liked ones important and vice versa" but 1. we shouldn't be molding the game COMPLETELY to the players and 2. what if you have a great design in mind that would be completely useless if we went by that rule?
    To this I completely agree. Don't completely rewrite your gameworld simply to suit whatever the players happened to do today.

    However, you have to also keep in mind that the NPCs do not exist purely for the story of the PC's. NPCs exist simply because they exist, and are there simply because that's where they are. If the players wish to interact with the NPC's, fine. If they do not, or simply dismiss them as unimportant... also fine. The NPCs know their own self-worth, and are not going to miss any sleep about some PC who doesn't take a liking to them.

    In the last campaign I ran, I had several prominent NPC's in the area. One old wizard, dying, who could have been of assistance to the party. I imagined him as having one more chance to make a difference in the world, to ammend for previous sins. One more great spell cast before the light fades from his eyes. The party blew him off as some old crank who lived by himself. He died of old age, off-screen, at the end of the campaign.

    They then fawned over another NPC who I had put into the game as purely as cameo, to establish him as a character for future storylines. Every time I tried to extract the character they held on to him and kept him from leaving. He didn't really do much, (he was not that effective), but he was present for most of the campaign.

    I had established another character who was slated to be a major adversary - not exactly a BBEG villain, but more of the mistaken enemy who once down the path of evil can't really get himself stopped. Except for the fact that the party got him stopped right at the beginning of the story (somebody murdered his wife, pointing suspicion in the wrong direction, but the players unraveled my carefully constructed mystery in about 5 minutes. It was supposed to be a six-month storyline and it was over in 5 minutes. ). That character ended up simply being the helpful guy in the background, having no further useful storyline role.

    And finally, there was Cetra. I added him in as the faithful lapdog of a guy, who travels with the party in the beginning, but would 'die tragically' at the earliest opportunity, designed solely to show that Bad Things can happen to you and your friends, unless you are careful.

    They were careful. Try as I might, they never once slipped up, never allowed me the chance to off poor old hapless Cetra. So Cetra survived.

    But... they did piss him off, dismissed him, even betrayed him of a sorts, to the extend that he turned from them and signed up with the BBEG, and now with his newly aquired powers, he is probably the greatest threat they might encounter in the future. He survived... only to inadvertantly become the next BBEG.

    *~*

    NPC's are people too. Let them be what they were meant to be, don't change them simply to fit the players expectations of them. But do let them to react to events. And let them change based on those events. And when an NPC's logical course of action crosses paths with the players... sparks may fly, sometimes in the most unexpected manner.
    Quote Originally Posted by Swordguy View Post
    Casters effectively lost every weakness they had (from AD&D), and everyone else suffered for it. Since this was done as a direct result of player requests ("make magic better!"), I consider it one of the all-time best reasons NOT to listen to player requests.

    Most people wouldn't know what makes a good game if it stripped naked, painted itself purple, and jumped up on a table singing "look what a good game I am!".

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Paseo H View Post
    Hmm, perhaps similarly, one trick might be to downplay the character ahead of time, so that the players won't be expecting the moon and the stars, then actually meeting the character, they will seem better in comparison?
    Better in what way? Trying to make the PCs respect an NPC by showing off how powerful, knowledgable and generally awesome the NPC is will more likely than not end in massive failure.

    Siela Tempo by the talented Kasanip. Tengu by myself.
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    Orc in the Playground
     
    RedSorcererGirl

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Honestly, the best answer is to give them some personality. Sure he might be a powerful archmage, but give him some quirks. Try not to center everything about him around being an archmage.
    Quote Originally Posted by CTrees View Post
    Oh! Better example!

    DM: That's it! Rocks fall, everyone dies!
    PC1: I have improved evasion
    PC2: Natural twenty on the reflex save!
    PC3: My reflex save is +15, and I didn't roll a one, so I'm good.

    Yeah... do you see that working?

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    My favorite with archmages is to make them so eccentric that the players either forget that they are immensely powerful, or the players become utterly terrified because the eccentric guy who just put a leash on a pigeon because, well, why not, has the ability to literally will them out of existence.

    For random NPC's that became important because of player inquiry and me saying "Sure, why not?", this had to be my favorite. Eberron game, players took the lightning rail to an outpost bordering the Talenta planes in Karrnath. Anyway, they exit the train and see a group of skeletons walking lock step with a guy in military uniform behind them, leading them.

    One guy is fascinated with the undead and goes to talk to the guy. For some reason I gave the guy a southern-fried accent and drank from a flask constantly. Out of nowhere, he went from random NPC to "Captain Kole, Necro-Captain of the 3rd Karrnath Brigade". He was a lich and the drink he had was an endless flask of dragonbile poison. It was the only thing his undead body could taste anymore and it was the only thing that kept him sane after losing all of his senses but sight and hearing. He was also very proud to be a lich in the Karrnath army, as it was a family tradition. Heck, his father and uncle were some of the skeleton he was commanding at the moment.

    One player actually said "It is nice to finally meet a lich who isn't insane and trying to kill us within the first few minutes of us meeting him." After the game ended I went home and statted him out completely on my computer in case I ever needed him again.
    Quote Originally Posted by shadow_archmagi View Post

    DM says: WHY!? WHY!? WHY?!
    DM means: NO! NO! NO!!!
    Player hears: GOOD JOB PLAYER! DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN!

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    John Campbell's Avatar

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Quote Originally Posted by EvilDM View Post
    While they travel I have them hear stories, rumor and songs about these people at inns and taverns. Nothing in depth usually, more of "The minstrel in the corner is singing the tale of Urslag 100-Killer" or "the table next to you in talking loudly about how Barch the Bearman passed thru town last month and singlehandly killed that bandit group that tried to ambush him."

    Needless to say by the time they're ready to meet one of these famous people they are usually pretty nervous and treat them the way we would a sports star or actor/tress. I also promote my local famous people as well, usually giving the PCs 2-3 references before they actually meet them.
    I have to admit that talking up NPCs like this just makes me want to kill them.
    Play your character, not your alignment.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    You probably aren't going to get the players to like an NPC by narrating about how great he is. You might, however, have some luck if you make the NPC's exploits funny. Laughter puts everyone in a good mood, and may set up the NPC as a Chuck Norris figure.

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    You probably aren't going to get the players to like an NPC by narrating about how great he is. You might, however, have some luck if you make the NPC's exploits funny. Laughter puts everyone in a good mood, and may set up the NPC as a Chuck Norris figure.
    YES YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES! Why do you think people care about Sarda of 8-bit theater fame?

    You could also have them be... different. No one care about the archmage, But having them be weird in behavior ("I am the milkman. My milk is delicious.") or Classes (Such as the legendary Four Winds Drunken Master of The Sacred Mountain Monk) to make them stand out and be remembered.

    Also, try having them show up everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Have them run into the middle of a dungeon and *poof*, what the **** is the legendary rouge doing there?!!
    Last edited by Doorhandle; 2011-09-18 at 06:13 AM.
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    DrowGuy

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    I've tended to find in campaign I've played that we as players would latch on to characters that were pretty offhandedly made. We spent 3 sessions hunting down a bandit that was ment to just be a minor encounter, but she killed our mook and since we were evil we out our main plan on the back burner and hunted her down. If you obviously out huge amounts of effort into them we sometime turn away because we can't make ourselves like someone we are obviously supposed to.
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Quote Originally Posted by John Campbell View Post
    I have to admit that talking up NPCs like this just makes me want to kill them.
    Completely fair, which is why I take great care in never promoting NPCs outside of the actual game play and background information for the world. IMO A DM should never talk up NPCs, dungeons, traps, treasures, monsters or anything else to the players themselves, but for a fully immersive world having the background info and dropping references for 'named' NPCs is extremely beneficial, Songs, stories and rumors are how news is passed in a medieval setting and just like the news of today they would focus on the famous people more then the guy next door.

    On a side note, I once had a higher level PC sitting in a tavern hear a song that was about him and his exploits. He was pretty taken aback by how the singer got some of the facts wrong, and even more so when the two young adventurers sitting at the bar next to him were boasting loudly that they were going to find and kill him to prove themselves.

    Good fun!

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    One thing i have come to learn is that if want my players to remember a NPC dont give it a long and complicated made up name.

    Xillandras the Marster of Dracullin Lore will end up being known as the Wizard guy.

    Archmage Anders

    or

    Highmage Grey

    They are simpler and more likely to stick in a players head.

    Keep names simple, use memorable knick names if they have weird names.

    If the Guard comanders name is Ristalican give him a knick name like the Steel Bear or something.

    Making the names easier to remember means the NPC's are more likely to become actuale people in the game rather then "sells me swords guy" "or that dude who always throws me in gaol."
    Last edited by Kaun; 2011-09-18 at 06:51 PM.
    Aside from "have fun", i think the key to GMing is putting your players into situations where they need to make a choice that has no perfect outcome available. They will hate you for it, but they will be back at the table session after session.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    You could always make the NPC useful to the party outside of being a DM fiat machine or quest NPC. Want your PC's to become attached to the blacksmith? Have him pay them 60% FMV on enchanted items in order to secure their business. Before long, he'll be their go to guy for selling vendor trash weapons and armor. Want your PC's to become attached to the archmage? Have him sell spells (both casting spells and letting the party wizard copy from his spellbook) for a cheaper price. Maybe remove the 'magic mart' and have him be a useful middle man who can track down obscure magic items, or a crafter who can make that incredibly useful Runestaff of Rays for the party sorcerer.

    Just my two copper.

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Connington View Post
    You probably aren't going to get the players to like an NPC by narrating about how great he is. You might, however, have some luck if you make the NPC's exploits funny. Laughter puts everyone in a good mood, and may set up the NPC as a Chuck Norris figure.
    That said, hints about greatness allow for some fun subversion. If everyone is going on about "The Huntress", particularly in threats, having "The Huntress" be revealed as a comic relief character is that much better.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    The best way I have found is to use old PCs that belonged to the players at the table in a previous adventure/campaign. It's usually instant respect since, you know, the players made those characters themselves.

    Be sure to keep the same name and appearance, though you can alter their background and age fairly easily. If players look for way to begin to control these characters or tell you how their old character "wouldn't do that" you can take it under advisement for role playing purposes but if it gets out of hand just politely explain that these characters are run by you, the DM and you're taking a bit of artistic license with them to fit them into your adventure/campaign/etc.

    Also, for other NPCs I'd avoid giving them complex names. And be sure to repeat their names aloud as often as you can when they are first introduced.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Woah woah woah slow down.

    I liked the downplaying the appearance, play up the reputation. That's great advice.

    Now, the way to REALLY do this is not as complex or difficult as it may seem.

    All you have to do is pretend you're talking about someone real, use eye-contact, pretend this guy is someone you know IRL and that you've had experience with. It's not about "x guy did x in the game" it's about how you emotionally affect your players by just speaking to them.

    But hey, you control the variables so you could try to shoot favorable, but that's just making the target bigger instead of aiming better.

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    Default Re: Influencing Players To Respect NPCs

    Quote Originally Posted by Paseo H View Post
    The issue is not so much about those two specific archetypes, it's about any given character who seem to be randomly liked or disliked, and figuring out how to ensure that a character is liked, especially if you aren't sure if it's the sort of character the players would like.
    One thing that has always worked for me is this: have the NPC to be liked be helpful towards the PCs.

    For some reason, Players tend to view NPCs as obstructions by default, and in truth most NPCs (particularly "important" ones) do serve to keep the Players from getting what they want. This is part and parcel for any game. As a result, Players develop inordinate fondness for NPCs who do them a good turn, even if they end up clashing with them later.

    So, have the Archmage give the Players a freebee unrelated to the quest -- perhaps a minor magical item that a PC has been lusting over, or even just a short-term buff. And have it happen first -- first impressions are incredibly important.
    Lead Designer for Oracle Hunter Games
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