NPC Sharing Etiquette

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RPGpad has good support for the use of different kinds of NPCs in both the forum and the chat — which all started two years ago by reworking characters — and one of the things we are very happy with is the ability to share NPCs between game masters, and even players if that works for your campaign.

NPC Sharing recap In this post we are talking a lot about shared NPCs, so this is a short recap of how that works and what you can do with it.

When you create a campaign, your new campaign starts out with two NPC-related tags:

  • Recurring NPC: Recurring NPCs are NPCs that are used often. They can be selected directly in the mask dropdown in both the forum and the chat.
  • NPC: Background NPCs are played less-often in the forum and the chat. They are auto-complete options when creating a custom mask.

By tagging a page with one of these tags the page becomes available as an NPC of that kind to all game masters in the campaign.

Furthermore, it is possible to create new tags (or edit the default ones) to allow sharing of NPCs not only among game masters, but among any group of players!

By sharing NPCs it becomes easier to have a consistent cast of NPCs for the player to interact with, even though there are several game masters. This helps immensely as some NPCs are simply not ‘clonable’: a few additional versions of ‘barmaid with gossip’ will probably be fine, but one extra version of ‘King Harold’ will most likely create several issues.

So, sharing King Harold seems like a good idea.

However, now that the role of King Harold is shared among the game masters, the king often appears to be of several minds about things the player characters ask about, sometimes even outright reversing his opinion on the topic…

…and that is something to be expected. It is a side-effect of the king being a shared NPC. Because game masters cannot be expected to keep up with all interactions players have with King Harold — which, after all, was the whole reason the king is a shared — they now have fractured knowledge of how the king experiences the game world.

In the forum (and chat) campaigns we played in we eventually settled on a few unwritten rules, effectively creating an NPC sharing etiquette that is followed within the community of players and game masters of those campaigns:

  • Every impactful NPC has a single game master as ‘Lead GM’ — this is often the person that created the NPC in the first place, or the GM that is responsible for the overarching plot, or that area of the world. This way there is always someone to talk to for OOC adjudication if the NPC is played as doing ‘something weird’.

  • Do not establish new facts about the NPC — such as introducing family members, declaring large-ish changes to their equipment, or having them change allegiances (especially in the case of nobility), declaring which gods they worship, etc.

  • Check with the NPCs Lead GM before doing something impactful — because NPC change, and if they do so because of revelations or actions by the players this change is even more meaningful. Checking your ideas with the Lead GM for that NPC helps to establish in what direction the NPC develops, and builds up a shared idea of what the NPC stands for and how they related to the world.

These rules followed after several awkward moments where NPCs did things that the players in the forum mission felt was a ‘weird thing’, and there was no clarity on how to resolve it — several lengthy OOC forum threads eventually resolved the issue. Over time these three rules came into existence as our NPC sharing etiquette. Incidentally, these rules eventually were also applied to NPC factions, NPC home worlds, and other shared aspects of the setting.

For your campaign, you might eventually settle on different rules, or your community might see things different entirely and just roll with ‘King Harold the Indecisive’!

If you do decide on using this sharing etiquette — or discover that your community has gotten in the habit of doing something like this — RPGpad you can help you set up tracking the Lead GM.

The fastest way is by adding a few additional NPC tags to clarify who the lead GM is (with tags like NPC (Mercury) or Brend's NPC). Alternatively you can add a ‘Lead GM’ field to the Person schema, or simply make an OOC note on the NPCs wiki page. Regardless of what method you choose, we found that it helps if everyone can easily discover who the lead GM for an NPC is.

How does your campaign use shared NPCs? Let us know in the community forum!

As always, we have this week’s changelog ready for you.