Imagine, your players are out on an adventure and they meet up with a stuck up NPC who gives them a hard time. The mood is a bit tense at the table and the players may struggle to get what they want from this NPC. (And according to some, unnecessarily so.) Not a few moments later, they meet up with another NPC with a similar, if not down right same, demeanor. They may have different traits, but the feel of the NPC remains the same and seems to be a reflection of the DM’s attitude towards the players. Statistically this is highly unlikely to happen in real life but oh so common while playing a pen and paper RPG with other people. And naturally may lead to your players no longer having fun.
When you see people on the street, at a glance, only a few will ever stand out from the crowd. Be it due to their mannerisms, the way they dress or just their overall feel when compared to the bland and common background.
In RPG’s, these usually turn out to be the quest givers, special contacts or even story hooks designed to stand out so that the party has a clear sense of direction.
Aka, How to think outside of the box and get away with it.
Consider the following. The house Reyne of Castamere royally pissed off the Lannisters. They end up fighting and the last of the Reyne retreat into their main fortress known for its subterranean systems, defenses and living areas. The fort is an absolute pain to take and could sustain them for a long time. A siege could prolong the war for far too long, being costly and an assault would likely end up with high casualties and loss for the Lannister Army. Tywin Lannister knew this and ended up deciding on a third option. Close off any and all entries/exits to the fort, leaving only a small opening for the massive amounts of water from a nearby river, which he had diverted into the fort. Flooding and killing every Reyne inside, ending the war and suffering no extra loss in the process.
(i recommend putting this clip on in the background.)
Imagine the following.
Your party is being stalked by some unseen foe that has just managed to decimate an entire village and its fighting force with some fiery form of magic missile. This ‘wizard’ is an absolute beast in hand to hand combat and it has managed to stay invisible throughout the entire ordeal. Having a seemingly impossible acrobatics skill and perhaps even multi classing a few levels in monk for having such an impeccable physique. Earlier when you tried to find this person, they manged to trick you using a form of ghost sound to mimic the parties cleric. A master of multi attack, fist weapons, staves, glaives…..throwing weapons like stars, chakrams, nets, daggers and traps that not even your base 14 perception and survival combined would pick up. Seemingly leaving no trace in the wild, so perhaps also having a class in druid or ranger, though the sheer amount of strength and knowledge of weaponry would suggest a fighter or a barbarian.
Or, ‘How i stopped caring and learned to love the sauce’.
One of my biggest pet peeves at a table is difficult players. And i’m sad to say that this is still an ongoing struggle after 6+ years of being a GM.
Having a bad group or just any bad player(s) in your group can really demotivate you as a GM and personal experience has at times left a sour taste in my mouth. There can and likely will be points in time where you may question the reason for even showing up anymore.
Before you choose your system,
before you dream up your antagonist or end boss,
before there is even a mention of classes and sheets,
There is a talk you need to have with your players.
You may already have certain wants and interests for a possible campaign.
But to have an interesting and engaging game for your players, you will need to involve them in the creation of your world. Sit them down and spend some time on hearing them out. This can vary from group to group. From an hour to several sessions. If you can’t meet up in person, try and at least get a discord or skype call going. This will save you some trouble.
There may come a time in your campaign, where you as a GM may wish to introduce an NPC to the game that could guide the party along the story.
Much like a quest giver or a contact/source of information. Or even as a companion that could join the party on their quest and help out.
How subtle you are about these things, is entirely up to you.
In games, we often see waves upon waves of minions (or often called ‘Mooks’). Even in tabletop and roleplay or even movies, we see a lot of unimportant faces creating an obstacle for our heroes. At times though, we notice a few characters standing out above the rest (even if they are still minions at the end of the day). These individuals may be slightly taller, larger, don’t wear a helmet, have a name, or are equipped better than their standard rank and file allies. Here we could immediately recognize these individuals as not simply standing out in presence but also in ability when compared to their comrades.
These characters have a much bigger chance to be remembered, depending on just how memorable they were. How much they stood out.