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Non-Player Characters

Non-Player Characters (NPCs)

So we move on to what I expect to be the final element of the Hack100 core rules – Non-player Characters (NPCs). By NPCs, I mean all the inhabitants of the game world encountered by the player characters whether friendly, indifferent or hostile, including creatures and monsters.

In keeping with the flexible approach that Hack100 adopts for Specialisms and Powers, rather than providing a standard list of potential friends and foes, I’ll instead present a methodology for quickly and easily creating any NPC. It follows ten simple steps, some of which are optional. The intention is to ensure that all NPCs are firmly rooted within the game world with clear rationales for their existence.

1. Description

Write a single evocative sentence that describes the player characters’ first impressions of the NPC. This will add flavour when the NPC is encountered. So, for example, in-game, rather than the Referee narrating:

You round the corner and find yourself face-to-face with a goblin

you instead have:

You round the corner and find yourself face-to-face with a short, green-skinned humanoid with large pointed ears and a mouth of sharp teeth“.

2. Background and Motivation

In the same way as for player characters, write a single sentence that describes the NPC’s Background and Motivation. This gives the Referee a rationale for why the NPC is being encountered and what their possible reactions to the player characters might be.

Continuing our goblin example, we have: 

A wolf-handler of the Splintered Skull tribe tasked with guarding the entrance to the tribe’s lair“.

3. Base Ability Value

Specify the NPC’s Base Ability value, a general percentage that is assigned to all of their Abilities (apart from those modified in Step 4 below).

For our goblin, a relatively weak adversary, we assign a value of 20%.

4. Modified Abilities (Optional)

Based upon the NPC’s description, Background and Motivation, modify those Abilities that are meaningfully higher or lower than their Base Ability Value.

Unless the NPC is particularly significant, there should be no need to modify more than a couple of Abilities. The Base Ability Value should be adequate for most aspects of the NPC, particularly those that are peripheral to their core role.

Our goblin is a guard, so we raise their Hand-to-Hand and Toughness Abilities to 30%.

5. Specialisms (Optional)

Again, based on the NPC’s Background and Motivation, add any Specialisms (or Powers) that meaningfully differentiate them from others in the world. Assign whatever percentage value to that Specialism that seems reasonable.

We give our goblin a “Wolf Handling” Specialism at a value of 60%. This represents the goblin’s ability to successfully command a wolf that has been trained to respond to its command. If the goblin orders its wolf companion to “Attack!” the Referee will perform a Wolf Handling task role to see if the wolf obeys. If the goblin orders its wolf to do something extreme that is clearly against the wolf’s best interests, the Referee might make that an Opposed Task Roll of the goblin’s Wolf Handling against the wolf’s Willpower.

6. Innate Characteristics (Optional)

Some creatures and monsters will have innate characteristics – instinctive actions they are naturally capable of doing without the need for a Task Roll. Sharks can swim, pterodactyls can fly, cobras have venomous bites, etc. List any such innate characteristics that are likely to be relevant to the game.

Our goblin can see in the dark so we list “Night Vision” as an innate characteristic.

7. Health

Health is calculated in the usual way by summing the NPC’s Toughness Bonus and Willpower Bonus and then multiplying the result by two.

The goblin has a Toughness of 30% and a Willpower of 20%, giving it a Health of 10.

8. Movement

As described in the rules on combat, standard characters can normally move up to 12 metres in a given round in addition to taking one action. If the NPC is significantly faster or slower than a typical character, update their Movement value accordingly.

Movement is not only relevant to combat. The relative speed of an NPC will also be important in pursuits or races.

We leave our goblin’s Movement as 12.

9. Equipment (Optional)

List any equipment or possessions the NPC is carrying about their person. Include armour, weapons, money and any personal effects of interest. For ease of in-game reference, include the Damage Modifiers of any armour and weapons.

We give our goblin leather armour [-1], a spear [+3], 1d5 coins and a wolf-tooth necklace. Our goblin will also have a Wolf [30%] companion, but that will be a separate NPC.

10. Notes (Optional)

Finally, add any remaining details about the NPC that might be relevant to the game.

This might include relevant information the NPC possesses, their recent activity within the context of the adventure, or particular loyalties, phobias prejudices or weaknesses.

Bringing all the above together, our example NPCs are summarised as follows. …

Goblin [20%]: a short, green-skinned humanoid with large pointed ears and a mouth of sharp teeth

Background & Motivation: A wolf-handler of the Splintered Skull tribe tasked with guarding the entrance to the tribe’s lair

Abilities & Specialisms: Hand-to-Hand 30%; Toughness 30%; Wolf Handling 60%

Innate Characteristics: Night vision

Health: 10

Movement: 12

Equipment: leather armour [-1], spear [+3], 1d5 coins, wolf-tooth necklace, silver broach (stolen)

Notes: Was a member of the raiding party that attacked the village last night (hence the stolen broach)

Wolf [30%]a mangy-looking creature with matted flea-ridden fur, slobbering chops and piercing yellow eyes

Background & Motivation: Divided loyalties between its handler and an insatiable appetite for fresh meat.

Abilities & Specialisms: Bite 40% [+3 Damage Modifer]

Innate Characteristics: Acute sense of smell

Health: 12

Movement: 15

Notes: Trained to respond to simple commands from its handler (“Attack!”, “Stay!”, “Go find!”, etc.) if the handler makes a successful Wolf Handling Task Roll.

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