Establish the Opposition
You might have already come up with an NPC or group of NPCs who is/are responsible for what’s going on when you made up your problem, but if you haven’t, you need to start putting together the cast of characters who are the key to answering your story questions. You also need to nail down their motivations and goals, why they’re standing in opposition to the PCs’ goals, and what they’re after.
At the very least, you should be able to answer the following questions for each named NPC in your scenario:
- What does that NPC need? How can the PCs help her get that, or how are the PCs in the way?
- Why can’t the NPC get what she needs through legitimate means? (In other words, why is this need contributing to a problem?)
- Why can’t she be ignored?
Wherever you can, try and consolidate NPCs so that you don’t have too many characters to keep track of. If one of your opposition NPCs is serving only one purpose in your scenario, consider getting rid of him and folding his role together with another NPC. This not only reduces your workload, but it also allows you to develop each NPC’s personality a bit more, making him more multi-dimensional as you reconcile his whole set of motives.
For each NPC that you have, decide whether you need to make them a supporting or main. Stat them up according to the guidelines given in Running the Game.
An Arcane Conspiracy: Opposition
Amanda looks over the story questions and thinks of NPCs she’ll need in order to answer them. She makes a list of the obvious suspects.
- Cynere’s mysterious employer (not appearing)
- The chief arbiter for the Collegia Arcana (supporting)
- Cynere’s competitor for the Jewel (supporting)
- A barrister who isn’t part of the conspiracy (supporting)
- A corrupt barrister, and the one that Zird’s rivals want to set him up with (supporting)
- The Collegia wizard who engineered the conspiracy to bring Zird down (main)
That’s six NPCs, four supporting, one main, and one that isn’t going to be in the scenario—she really doesn’t want to drop any details on who’s hiring Cynere yet. She also doesn’t really want to keep track of five NPCs, so she starts looking for opportunities to consolidate.
One pairing that immediately strikes her is making Cynere’s competitor and the neutral barrister into the same person, whom she names Anna. Anna might not be involved in this conspiracy, but clearly, there’s a more complicated motive at work. What’s going on with her? Amanda ultimately decides that Anna’s motives are beneficent; she’s secreting the Jewel away to keep it out of the hands of more corrupt elements in the Collegia’s infrastructure. She doesn’t know anything about Cynere and will mistake her for an agent of those corrupt elements until they clear the air.
Then she decides that the chief arbiter and the architect of the conspiracy are the same—he didn’t trust anyone else to stick the final nail in Zird’s coffin, so he made sure he’d be appointed arbiter over the trial. Amanda likes this because his political power makes him a formidable opponent to investigate and gives him a powerful lackey in the form of the corrupt barrister. But why does he have it in for Zird in the first place?
She further decides that his motives aren’t personal, but he’s getting ready to do some stuff that will rock the foundations of the Collegia, and he knows that as a misfit in that organization, Zird is one of the most likely candidates to resist him. So it’s basically a preemptive strike.
As for the corrupt barrister, the first thing that comes to mind is a pathetic, sniveling toady who is totally in the arbiter’s pocket. But she wants to add a measure of depth to him, so she also decides that the arbiter has blackmail material on him, which helps to ensure his loyalty. She doesn’t know what that info is yet, but she’s hoping that nosy PCs will help her figure it out through a story detail later.
She names the arbiter Lanthus, and the corrupt barrister Pight. Now she has her NPCs, and she goes about making their sheets.
Advantages Can Save You Work
When you’re establishing your NPCs for your scenario, you don’t have to have everything set in stone when you get to the table—whatever you don’t know, you can always establish by letting the advantages the players create become the NPCs’ aspects.