The next time you create an NPC, give them two hooks that your players will pick up on in their first encounter with that NPC.
- Hook one is the most obvious thing about the NPC — something fun to play out, easy to remember and unique to that NPC.
- Hook two is the one your players will remember later, and hopefully follow up on.
For example: Dorian is a middle-aged cop who speaks with a strange cadence, one that’s a bit like William Shatner doing Captain Kirk (the obvious hook). He also wears at least a half dozen religious symbols of different faiths around his neck at all times (the one that begs for follow-up from your players).
I’ve never tried this myself, but it seems like it’d be a sound technique for quickly building NPCs that your players will enjoy interacting with. (For lots more tips and discussion on this topic, don’t miss the NPC section of the TT archives.) What do you think?
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In the obligatory tavern in the settlement where the party started they met an old cyborg messing with parts from his arm.
Hook for immediate adventure:
“It’s so hard to get parts for this thing out here. If I could only get some tangler wood…”
Hook for the bar:
“Treasure hunters are always coming in here when they get their supplies.”
The characters still haven’t gotten the poor guy his tangler wood, though. They’ve been in the wilderness for months since starting out to get it…
(A tangler is a carnivorous tree from Piers Anthony’s Xanth books.)
Sounds like an interesting technique. It sounds similar to the “no more than three traits when introducing a character” guideline from my fiction writing class.
My favorite example was the mustached gunman who kept absently munching on animal crackers.
It’s a good suggestion, though, I tend to think it would be more effective if used only for spotlight npcs, cohorts and those crucial to a particular adventure. (In other words, your “guest stars.”)
Cliff: That’s pretty close to what I’m getting at, and it sounds solid (even though it hasn’t come full circle yet).
Good point about not using this for every NPC — that’s just too many hooks!
I don’t think I’ve heard the three traits guideline before. That sounds like it would port really well into RPGs.