Gandolfs a twat, someone should kill Venger and monolouges are for Eve Ensler.

Gandolf, never liked him, he spent all that time knowing what was going on with his uber powers only to let everyone go through hell when he could have just summoned a magic Deloren and zapped the Hobbits to Mount Doom ski lodge and grill. Lazy fuck. Seriously, whip up one Unicorn or something rather than continuously falling back on air eagle services. It’s not like he’d tapped out all his white mana. Hell Souron I could respect, at no point did he gloat. That’s just classy.

However it’s not Gandolf’s fault we have UberWiz McUltra Paladin in our systems. The NPCs who can curb stomp the world, and end up acting as magical vending machines and plot delivery systems or that bad guy who can, but never quite gets round to ending the world.

What am I getting at? Well it’s two types of NPC. ‘The Unkillable Doombringer’ and the ‘Fairy Godmother called Mary Sue’

Now I’m not saying I’m right, what I’m doing is highlighting stuff that becomes tired very fast or maybe being used for the wrong reason. Or maybe I’m just bitching cause I didn’t get enough hugs as a kid and I need internet attention just to get an erection nowadays.

‘The Unkillable Doombringer.’ Or ‘Venger syndrom’

venger

‘Now if you look a this power point slide you can see how i will destroy the world, now for a group exercise’

You know the guy, Zarthos the Unclampable is coming to destroy the world cause the Goddess Gary clamped his chariot and can only be slain by a convoluted series of events that revolve mainly around a sacred parking ticket being stuffed up him at the end of the big battle to finally put a year of murdering people with long speeches and shouts of no effect (and yet people still try to twat ‘em) to rest.

That’s right the uber NPC of doom here to kill you and the world.

Now sure occasionally the thing from time and space needs to be unkillable and is a cool thing to weather, to tell stories of survival until the final act, but do we really need uber big bad npc all the time? I reckon no.

The arguments for the unkillable big bad are generally as follows:

  • If we don’t make ‘em unkillable they die too quickly.
  • The quest for the spatula to kill the big bad is the cool bit that the big bad is serving.
  • The players need a challenge.

Now none of the above is intrinsically bad, if you like that sort of thing. However does wailing on a 1000 hp character count as a challenge? Thats masochism. If something might die too quickly, could you just not put them in a position to die? Have you tried not putting uber smart bad guy in a place where it might get murdered.

As to the spatula of slaying, there are only so many times you can hunt for the ring of ming before it becomes the same old same old. ‘Hey guys Zarthos is in camp monologuing again, anyone got the parking ticket? Nope? Well stay out of camp cause hes boring and a waste of healing when he kicks off and we inevitably get curb stomped before he leaves.’

The problem is that at many levels the ring of ming etc removes agency from players? Why? Well they can’t take on the big bad till the Plot says they can. They are no longer in charge of their destiny, the plot is nothing more than a logic diagram the players are going through till they do what is expected of them. This is fine if you plan to use the big bad as a backdrop for the campaign rather than the focus, but if the big unkillable bad is nothing more than a full stop in a novel that is destined to die at an appointed hour like an alcoholic actors having their contract cancelled, what was the point in all the effort the players put in?(of course if the players fuck up and you nuke the campaign and start something new, I genuinely want to shake your hand.). Even worse when plot writers complain that the players didn’t do it right and the plot hasn’t finished on time…..if it should have finished there, obviously the players had no agency in this and you are just pissed your set piece didn’t go off. Failure is just as valid as success, unless you painted yourself into a corner with a world ending threat, then you somewhat fucked yourself.

Of course there is another sub type of the big unkillable, the ‘Unkillable Gloater’. Now the Unkillable Gloater is often an example of an evil ‘Fairy Godmother called Mary Sue’. Turns up, twirls its moustache, then disappears before dying. Repeat and rinse. Often doing this in the middle of your camp, leaving no one asking ‘Why the fuck do we even talk to this jerk? He’s like actually shoing off he got one over on us. Pub anyone?’ It’s an internet Troll in a cloak and rubber mask.

What’s wrong with this is that we have this weird idea that the bad guy has to come in and introduce themselves, monologue and leave (or as a friend of mine described it ‘nine o’clock news plot’, as in it rolls out like the news being read.). Like a slightly embarrassed candidate on the apprentice with slightly more aggressive world domination plans than Lord Sugar (now there’s a bad guy name who runs drug rings in a game if I ever heard one….). The problem is when said great evil rocks up to say hi, the more discerning heroes think ‘shall I just slot him mid speech?’ , hell half the time the bad guy might as well be repeating the safety brief cause a couple of minutes in we have all switched off knowing full well we can’t hurt the talky twat. The idea that maybe the bad guy could just not turn up is almost alien (See the terror plot lone at CP. The big bad doesn’t actually walk into camp, sure theres been some possession, but it dosnt turn up and go ‘hey guys i’m like evil and you guys like suck at any point’).

I think one of my favourite subversions of this was the big bad for the next two year at Shadowrealms starts his speech and gets the equivalent of a bucket of holy water over the head killing him, and the refs went with it. Player agency was not subverted by a plot writers need for control, and hats off to the guy playing the npc who got soaked….

The other problem is that after enough world ending plots where no one can hurt the bad guy till the appointed hour, the believability stretches to a point where players start to not care, knowing that the stakes don’t really matter. Once the appropriate parts of the plot are met by someone the bad guy self destructs in the face of the Maltease Falcon to the face. A friend of mine once described one of the big games as ‘never being able to have a functioning society as the world is about to end every bloody year’ summed it up to me. (That said a fantasy world sliding into apocalypse where society doesn’t work sounds like fun to me.)

dungeon-master

That’s right players worship me, WORSHIP ME…i was never hugged as a child….

Next up is of course the ever popular ‘Mary Sue Fairy Godmother’ or that ‘Dungeon master syndrome’. That NPC that helps players can fix all the problems, and duels the big bad. You know the ones I’m talking about. Uber-powerful unkillable NPC that could fix the world but ends passing out care packages and patronising help to players.

What irritates me the most is people larp to a certain extent to be Black Widow , Conan, Gandolf (Twat) or Space Commander Smith. Not to watch an NPC do it for them. Seriously when such Mary Sue npcs get created does anyone think ‘Could a player be doing this instead? Why do I need to play a uber combat monster npc when a player could do this role? Does this system really need Elminster?’.

At the core NPCs that act as an interface with the world and systems are good. NPCs that do stuff for players, save the players at the last minute or act as something players have to continually go cap in hand to all remove player agency.

I think my favourite NPCs for players are Empires Civil service and Hart. Both make stuff for players to do, by existing and breathing in the case of the later or act as nothing more than levers for players to effect the world in the case of the former. Oh and Donald at CP, cause his combat skills are only as good as the physreps, he serves a purpose in not being easily killable (cause no one wants to do that ooc paperwork and that paperwork is important.) and over charges for any services a player wants from him, therefore making them go elsewhere rather than relying on an NPC.

How do we get round this bad boy? Well don’t give npcs anything the players might need to complete the plot, unless that is actually part of what they need to do.

If Gary needs to convince the diplomat from the Cornwall to provide him with the map to the local off licence, this is cool.

If Gary goes to Flangeminster the mage for the dohicky for the plot every time, well the player just became Flangeminsters runner. He’s just DHLing the killer ‘thing’ from one NPC to another. That’s right killing the big bad is nothing more than a fetch quest with a lot of words. In fact why the fiuck did Flangeminster not get off his arse to do it himself? I’m obviously not going to comment on the fragile egos that create such obvious penis substitutes

So what am I saying here?

Basically Unkillable uber monsters obviously won’t die till the plot writer say it’s ok takes away any sense of accomplishment and characters that turn up to and an NPC should never do something that would be better coming from a player.

So what do we do about this?

Well one thing is make all plot PVP, this isn’t ideal as it is a) not inclusive and b)leads to constant bitching and moaning about everything ever unless you are really careful. That and everyone wants to be the bad guy, cause 90’s comics and GoTs has taught us heroes aren’t cool.

Maybe lower the threat. The world dosn’t have to end everytime, only the players world. Zubub the Jazz god is slightly less terrifying when it rocks up to destroy the world, than the petty warlord that is going to destroy the players resources or family home. Even in high fantasy the big bad tends to be off stage, maybe a possessed minion turns up to speechify the heroes to death rather than round six of badguy turns up and talks at you? Not every bad guy needs to be Venger and not every helpful npc has to be a balding twat in a red dress who teleports in to save the day and tell Cavalier he’s doing it wrong.

At the end of the day, if players aren’t doing it why is it there? Is the NPC serving the game or some ones ego? Why put a gun to the world when you can put a gun to a players puppy?

So some rules to live buy:

1. If you use the words my NPC over the NPC, check your not just using it for ego wank.

2. As above, but added in maybe you should buy a ticket if your ‘playing’ your NPC?

3. Does the bad guy need to end the world to be a threat? Really? cause it didn’t work out for the last twenty douches that did that.

4. Introduce your badguy to Bond films, seriously. Then do a test on what they did wrong, around the monologuing. Monologues are for Eve Ensler not for the camp while using calls like pain to make sure players don’t get bored and walk off…

5. If you can imagine any speech given by a bad guy with powerpoint running don’t do it.

6. If the players aren’t doing it, why not?

7. Don’t wire your gentiles to the mains.

8. Don’t take Facebook seriously.

I could be wrong of course (other than Facebook), but does that really matter?

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One Response to Gandolfs a twat, someone should kill Venger and monolouges are for Eve Ensler.

  1. anon ref says:

    love it!

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