NPC Essentials Capsule Review by Papyrus on 16/10/02
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
Equivalent to a Masters Degree course in NPC creation, development, use and play.
Product: NPC Essentials
Author: Johnn Four
Company/Publisher: RPG Objects
Line: GM Mastery Series, D20 system
Page count: 83
Year published: 2002
Comp copy?: yes
Capsule Review by Papyrus on 16/10/02
Genre tags: Fantasy Generic
When I first started reading, I expected the same old set of tired recommendations seen in so many rpg magazines. It wasn't long before I realized that this was equivalent to a Masters Degree course in NPC creation, development, use and play. This is the most thorough piece I have ever seen on the development of NPCs for rpgs, a great deal of thought and work went into it. A great deal of it would be useful to players creating PCs with added depth and color as well.
The book begins with a very short introduction and then dives right into NPC design. Right away the time needed to do it right is discussed and GM readers are introduced to the concepts of NPC planning groups, increased detail for increased gaming importance, making sure the right amount of detail is put into NPCs by their story function. Individual discussions of NPC's background, power base (or support), and individual quirks. Special attention is paid to making them unique, suggestions for contrasting character traits are among the best.
Another large amount of text is devoted to actually role-playing NPCs. Setting moods, getting into character and physical character traits are all described to assist GMs in playing real characters for their players. The techniques used rival those taught to actors and writers for use in developing alternate personalities.
Two complaints, I hate reading .pdf books on screen so I had to print it. Lastly, the section headings within chapters were difficult to distinguish as to which were subordinate to each other without reading the entire passage. Although different fonts were used, they did not provide intuitive subject grouping titles.
If you're serious about role-playing, and PC/NPC interaction, you need this book. More casual GMs will find it helpful and interesting but the magnitude of the commitment it describes is beyond most of us.