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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What's in a Name? - The Difference Between a Monster and an NPC

Yesterday I wrote up a unique monster for my campaign, a Gargoyle named Slate. The name isn't original, but precious little is these days.

It didn't occur to me until today that I had basically turned the monster into an NPC.

Really, what is an NPC? It's a monster interesting enough for the players to interact with prior to or instead of killing it. Because lets be honest, most groups in fantasy RPGs are thinking about the body count ;)

If the highwaymen don't have names, they're monsters. If they have names and motivations they are NPCs.

A gargoyle is a monster, unless it's named Slate and can converse in the common tongue, at which point it becomes an NPC.

Now, if the NPC becomes a DMPC we have a whole 'nother problem ;)


7 comments:

  1. Yes, having a name and being able to have a conversation with them is the sign of an NPC.

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  2. Monsters are NPCs, but NPCs aren't necessarily monsters.

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  3. Aren't the PCs the *real* monsters? #murderhobos

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  4. Yeah, monsters are always NPCs. You could always try to talk to them. And they aren't always hostile, regardless of alignment.

    I think this is something that has vanished from the game. But that cartoon in the MM about trying to talk to the Giant Lynx wasn't just a joke

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  5. Interesting. Then all of my monsters must be NPCs.
    Last year when I ran Keep on the Borderlands the players had serious qualms about killing the orcs in one of the first caves because they were clearly part of a familial clan and once they killed the warriors the only ones left were the defensive mothers and their cowering children. The first edition module actually describes them this way, so I didn't have to work too hard to illustrate how the PCs had just come in and wiped out their breadwinners.

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  6. While I agree that all monsters are technically NPCs, named NPC should fall in a different category. When you name something, you instantly get a much stronger emotional attachment to them. For example, if you live on a farm, you are used to killing and butchering cows and chickens for food. however, if you decide to name one of the cow Daisy or something, you will soon discover that killing it just got a lot more emotional. It's same animal as all the others you have killed, but this one is different; it has a name. Names have power.

    As soon as you name something, you feel more attached to it, and thus can more easily emphatize with it. I found that it works for PC's too. When they learn that Orc no.3 they captured is called Hrunk Grumpyfist, they are less likely to slit his throat after interrogation. Names have power.

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  7. While I agree that all monsters are technically NPCs, named NPC should fall in a different category. When you name something, you instantly get a much stronger emotional attachment to them. For example, if you live on a farm, you are used to killing and butchering cows and chickens for food. however, if you decide to name one of the cow Daisy or something, you will soon discover that killing it just got a lot more emotional. It's same animal as all the others you have killed, but this one is different; it has a name. Names have power.

    As soon as you name something, you feel more attached to it, and thus can more easily emphatize with it. I found that it works for PC's too. When they learn that Orc no.3 they captured is called Hrunk Grumpyfist, they are less likely to slit his throat after interrogation. Names have power.

    ReplyDelete