Monday, September 16, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 14 - Favorite NPC

After this one, the 30 Day Challenge schedule calls for me to pick favorite monsters (by type)--a task that keeps me busy for nine days.  Given the importance of monsters to D&D, though, it seems an important category worthy of mulitple questions.  On the other hand, I'm struggling just a bit to develop my answer to the question: who is my favorite NPC?

Sometimes with these types of questions, I'm not sure whether I want to answer in a personal way (i.e., from my own campaigns and games) or in a "populist" way; i.e., NPCs that are famous from modules, campaign settings, or novels or whatever, and are therefore known by many gamers all 'round the world.

In the end, on this one, I decided to split the difference somewhat.  My friend Corey Reid ran a lengthy campaign using a fairly heavily house-ruled (mostly redacted to limit options, at least until such time as the players discovered more options) 3e game.  He ended up posting a write-up of the game on the good ole ENWorld Story Hour forums.  He later actually compiled this into a PDF, which can be bought from Lulu.  Here's a link.!!!-COMPLETE

In many ways, he's very up front about this being the story of an NPC, the Demon-Goddess, Madam Yuek Man Chong.  It wasn't meant to be; he had a great ensemble cast of great players with interesting characters.  Something one of them did made the entire campaign take a hard right turn.  A character who was meant to be a throwaway appearance--a super-powerful Ten Who Were Taken style sorceress who shows up and scares the PCs a bit or something.  He had, at the time, a funny little set of house-rules.  Swash-cards, he called them.  They were cards that the players were dealt, that they could play for interesting, modest benefits in game.  One of them was that an NPC would fall head over heels in love with the PC.  When a player pulled this one unexpectedly on one of the most powerful NPCs in the entire campaign setting--who at the time, didn't even have a proper name assigned to her--he's very upfront about how the campaign was turned on its ear and became something that he never envisioned.  Reading his account of this is interesting; it's a great example of how to roll with unexpected punches as a GM, how to play a fascinating and horribly unbalanced NPC and yet make it not overshadow the players own characters, or ruin the game, and it's a great example of just the sheer potential of our game to deliver honest to goodness great drama and entertainment.

Yuek Man Chong is, again to make a reference to Glen Cook, very similar in many ways to The Lady, or Soulcatcher.  She's not only insanely powerful, she's also actually insane.  This is par for the course for any sorcerer who manages to survive long enough to practice their craft in Corey's Barsoom.  But her integration into the game is what really works.  She never overtakes it, even though I've heard Corey occasionally lament that he's afraid she might have.  I think she's a ton of fun to read about, but only because the player characters are themselves interesting enough to go toe to toe with her (in a narrative sense, not in a let's roll initiative and take her down sense). 

When we come back for day 15, it's my favorite undead.  Which is difficult, I think, because I like the concept of undead (have I mentioned before that my game is as much horror as it is fantasy?  Well, probably not recently enough.)  However, I think D&D is guilty of ridiculous over-splitting and specialization of undead.  Finding the one that's "just right" and does what I need is easier said than done.

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