Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lyceum Aegis NPC Prep

Today I'll walk through a second example of batch NPC, this time focusing on the fellow students for a modern fantastic school based campaign. I'm writing a little more here than I usually would on NPCs since they're going to be fairly integral to the setting. A significant portion of the game will be about interacting with these characters. Normally I might do 5 (+/-2) sentences of description, just to make sure I have a concrete idea in my mind about who and what the character is. If there are groups, factions, or the like, I'll make sure to note those. In prep I keep the NPC creation sheets in a separate section, with names written in bold. That allows me to flip quickly to those to reference or to find an NPC I haven't used yet. I don't refer to them in play-- usually I'm working from an outline where I've written their name and maybe a quick reminder detail.

What do I know about these NPCs before I plunge into creating them:
-They're high school age (maybe some younger and maybe some slightly older)
-They've all demonstrated some magical ability and then were hustled out of their previous home to this place. Some may understand their powers better than others.
-They all have at least one major personality flaw or trait that helps shape their magic. They use the Persona form of casting I mentioned earlier. Those Personas represent a manifestation of the trait or a reaction to it.
-They should be split 50/50 gender-wise-- assuming a female PC, then four boys and three girls.
-I don't want to lock anything down too much on their character—given that I don't know what my niece is going to come up with for her own. If she duplicates something here, it should be easy to modify that NPC. Also, if it comes about that I have more PCs, I may have to cut an NPC or two.

Male #1

Inferno (Six of Ideas, Reversed)
Destruction out of control
Comta-Kur (Seven of Waves) Enlightenment, return to faith
The Prisoner (Ace of Archetypes) Captivity, bondage, the damped, a caged self

The cards here line up for the classic motif of a kid whose powers manifested destructively, terrifying him and making him clamp down on them for fear of hurting anyone. That works but I want to complicate that a little. He gained his powers some time ago and his parent guardian noticed them. He was used by his parent for less than savory ends-- perhaps not criminal, but pushed to do things he realized weren't right.

Let's say his father figure was petty-- and had him do things like killing a yappy neighbor's dog, vandalizing people that pissed him off and maybe a little worse. The abuse driving his son would have been mental, rather than physical, telling him that the world owed them something. He wasn't sure but found himself caught between his father's relentless pressure and what he thought was right.

One of the Instructors came and took him away-- telling him that his father had agreed to it. He knows that isn't right-- not because his father loved him, but because he knows his father is a greedy bastard. He's caught between relief over leaving that situation and guilt that maybe some thing's happened to him. As a result, when the reveal comes about the magic and the powers here at the Academy, he's going to be very hesitant and fearful about that. He won't use his powers on command and knows enough about wheedling and cajoling to resist that. He'll be distrustful and try to remain outside any bond-- with teachers or with his fellow students.

Female #1

Fire (Six of Ideas) Cleansing, purification, reification, tempering
Manticore (Six of Creatures, Reversed) Lashing out, reactions; rain of blows, frenzy
Sidhe-Aksa (Three of Waves, Reversed) Control undone or subverted

I'm going to alternate between male and female here-- and take what comes from the entry. Sometimes I find myself falling into traditional gender roles for characters, seeing “male” traits and then making that choice. I switch this up to keep me on my toes.

This character has spent her life having to take care of others. The eldest of a large family, she was expected to almost raise her many brothers and sisters, sacrificing any time to herself in order to do that. At the same time she found herself constantly blamed and put under pressure for any failing or faults in them. If they misbehaved, she had to take the brunt of the parental displeasure. Successes met with little or no acknowledgment. She's steeled herself for that-- accepting her role in life. However her resentment grew over time, finally exploding and revealing her latent gifts.

One of the instructors caught her in the midst of this frenzy and managed to keep her from doing any lasting harm to herself or her family. Coming here has wrought a change in herself-- she's determined not to do anything beyond what she has to. She won't help out on things, she won't take care of anyone else, and she won't seem to give a crap about what is happening around her. Her dominating trait will be the appearance of absolute laziness. She'll seem spoiled in some ways. However certain signs will give away her game-- an absolute neatness she hides (in homework, personal appearance), maybe a compulsive need to secretly clean, and certainly in the appearance of her Persona.

Male #2

Comta-Aksa (Seven of Waves, Reversed) False faith, heresy
The Felled Tree (Four of Legends, Reversed) Instability, temporality, mortality
The Tree (Four of Legends) Stability, permanence, timelessness

This character learned about death early on. His family never tried to hide the truth of it, for better or worse. He saw several close relatives die, including at least one violently. He became obsessed and fearful about death or injury. He's not quite a hypochondriac-- but at that age where kids made dumb decisions without thinking about the consequences, he worries about everything around him like an old man. He bundles up at the slightest cold, won't eat anything he's not sure about the expiration date on, won't ride in a car with any driver who shows the slightest signs of not being completely skilled.

His Persona will manifest around the magical sphere of Time. He wants to slow things down-- doesn't want anything to pass. Coming here has been a shock to him, but he's trying to cope. In his ideal world no one would die, a worldview he hasn't completely come to terms with yet.

Female #2

Love (Seven of Ideas) Love, affection, infatuation
Love (Seven of Ideas) Love, affection, infatuation
Chaos (Two of Ideas, Reversed) Mutations, destructive change

Again here's a character where the drop of the cards pretty much tells everything. With 164 possible results, you're going to have duplication, but it is rare they stack up like this. She's a character given to grand obsessions on all levels. She falls in and out of love with people, things, ideas, places, food...pretty much everything. Whatever she loves, she obsesses over and has to invest herself fully in. She can stay in that state of love for a long time, or she can simply forget about it. When something drops off her radar, she doesn't move to hating it, but rather it just doesn't seem important to her. She may come back to it-- especially if someone reminds her about it or calls her on her infatuation.

That means that she can be laser focused on a project and make great headway, but distractions may cause her to lose interest and put it aside. When she does actually complete something it should be grand and filled with energy. But the sheer number of her obsessions should rarely give her that space. If, however, something betrays or rejects her, then her reaction will change dramatically. It does take a lot to push her to that state-- she's not quick to anger or rage. But if something or someone she's invested in does seem to insult her, or violate her sense of right, or betray her, her sense of rage will be fierce and cutting.

In some ways, there will be an expectation that she'll go psycho in those cases, given her initial temperament. To play against that, if she does flip from love to hate, her response should be calm and calculated-- not over the top or unreasonable. She'll be bothered by that thing or person having betrayed her trust and for making her love the world a little less.

Male #3

Salt (Three of Metals, Reversed) Brittle, edgy; temporal
Newtling (Ace of Races, Reversed) Descent, decline, fall from grace
Centaur (Seven of Races) Good will; good temper, even-handedness

This character has a leg-brace, the relic of a childhood injury. He's a little defensive about it, but tries not to be. Much of his character is shaped by watching his family's slow fall from wealth to poverty. He grew up well-off by every year, things became tighter and tighter. He understood some of it-- his father needing to change jobs, the economy just being bad, but much of it was outside his experience. Each year they moved, each year there were fewer gifts and toys, things he loved taken from place to place slowly got sold off.

He watched both his parents become angrier and angrier, more and more tired. He tried to play peacemaker, doing what he could around the house. However that seemed to do little to stem the emotional bleeding in his home. He's been told that in exchange for coming here, his parent will be taken care of-- a new job, a new house. He's not yet sure if that's true and he worries a lot that they'll be happier now that he's gone. He tries to keep a brave face on and he hates arguments. That means he'll generally give in rather than come into conflict with someone else. He also tries to mend bridges where and when he can.

Female #3

Chaos (Two of Ideas, Reversed) Mutations, destructive change
Gnome (Two of Races, Reversed) Gathering without purpose, lack of order, mob
Elements (Five of Ideas) Parts, materials, support

This character found herself passed around from home to home, relative to relative over the formative years of her life. Each time the relation became more and more distant from her original mother and father whom she barely remembers. At first it was terrifying, then became an adventure to go a different place, then faded into a desperate boredom. She found herself in foster family homes, not as a foster child, but as just another kid distantly related to or simply known by the family. That continually left her at the margins. She learned the knack for blending into the group, becoming unobtrusive, in order to get equal treatment.

That helped when she finally found herself abandoned-- coming home to an empty house. She knew enough to try to find her way back to the last place she'd lived, but that ended up a dead end. She lived on the streets for a time, managed to survive by making her way into shelters-- she'd spent enough odd nights there in between homes. She became a pack-rat, stealing both to survive and for some comfort. She also developed her Persona, which appeared to her more as a secret friend than a powerful avatar. It showed her how to get into places without being seen. It also taught her how to convince people that she was a friend of a friend, that they wouldn't mind her sleeping on the couch for just one night.

She took the idea of coming to the Academy well. However she assumes that, like everyplace else, this is a temporary arrangement. She's always getting things together in case it should happen on short notice: food, clothing, etc.

Male #4

Trollkin (Four of Races, Reversed) Impotency, infertility, weakness; inferiority
Centaur (Seven of Races) Good will; good temper, even-handedness
Naveh Debased (Five of Gods, Reversed) Unsavory means of demonstrating power; relentless pursuit; utter lack of safety; small mistake leads to utter failure; nightmares; hubris

In a family of great children, this character found himself the least among equal. A sister who was a great athlete, a brother who was an artistic genius, another with absolute mastery of foreign languages. He was the average middle child among giants. While his parent transported his siblings from activity to activity, he stayed at home, watched TV, played video games, and generally avoided people. His parents saw his inactivity as a cry for help and continually enrolled him in things he wasn't interested in-- trying to “find his bliss” as they would say.

His response was to act out, sometimes viciously. While not, perhaps, as smart as his brothers and sisters he was still smart and used that to make the lives of his peers in these activities miserable. Still his parent kept trying in their enlightened way-- something he came to really hate.

At first he though the Academy was simply another one of their plans. He will soon realize it is different-- he's not sure what he did that attracted the instructors attention. Once he see magic, he will probably seize upon this as something his siblings cannot do. That will make him highly competitive in this sphere-- and may lead him to resent others who apparently do well.

There- done in one hour (plus a couple of breaks). Some cliches, but as I mentioned before, those have a certain power here. I might also want to think about ethnic background as well. They're rough and will take some tweaking. I'll probably go through and assign a Sphere of magic from Mage to each of them, but not until I know more about what kind of powers my niece wants. I'll have to come up with names and smooth out some of the basic ideas there.