Easiest way to build NPCs

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jwendl jwendl's picture
Easiest way to build NPCs

I've been very impressed with EP 2nd Edition and have been building my first set of adventures for some friends to play. The first session went really well basically created a scenario on Luna based on Firewall background, but the thing I had a hard time coming up with is the stats for each different person or mutation they ran into ahead of time.

It's not really needed to have an app that can generate them or something, but it would be nice for some generic guidance around what the stats are sensible for NPCs and which stats really matter etc when having the party run into the new situation with a person, bot or creature of some sort etc.

The first mission was just really a base on Luna that was abandoned, but now the next one I am planning in a major downtown area of Luna and really want the players to just choose where they are going etc. and come up with sensible people for them to talk to.

Is there anything like the NPC File1: Prime book that maybe has more options etc?

The NPCs in the back of the second edition book are a bit higher threat level than I wanted in the earlier missions for this team etc.

Just looking for advice from other folks on how they run adventures and figure out how to build people the players run into in the game.

syberwasp syberwasp's picture

ok let me start by saying that I haven't had a chance to run EP2 yet, but I did run 3 EP1 games. So this is just a general guideline I use for all games I run.

I have NPC fall into 3 types, A Villain (the big bad guy), the Mooks and Minions, and the Everyman.

The Villain or the big bad guy is any NPC that is equal to or greater in power to the PC's. this could be a single NPC or a group. They get full stats and equipment, probably show up many times and generally are a pain for all involved and have names.

The Mooks and Minions are are the people that may or may not have names. They are the cannon fodder of the gaming world. I have just enough information to use them but never really have sheets for them. If they are pilots then they have a score reasonable for X skill level. (average pilot about 55%, a highly skilled pilot say 65% to 70%, a fighter pilot 85% to 90%, An ace pilot teaching other pilots 95%.

There is a chart on PG 48 of EP2, aptitude ranges and skill ranges, that I find useful. Have a concept for the NPC, list relevant skills and assign an aptitude rating and then a skill rating add together and that the score for all skills that NPC has. but for any other skill its just aptitude.

have to work with it a bit to get a hang of what works.

The third NPC is the Everyman, this is the run of the mill NPC the school teacher the janitor, the morph making you coffee at the martian cafe. They don't have stats. they do their job have personality if you need it. but if the PC do anything chance are the PC can wipe them with little more than a successful skill test.


Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Gear-based opposition

Ok, so here's another take on the theme.

First, grab a base of skills for the NPCs. Remember, however, that you will only make them interact with the players in certain scenarios, and in fact, 99% of the times what you need is a simple category of encounters:

* Civilians
* Agents (spread extra skills)
* Soldiers (pros, centered around som skills)
* Mooks (more willing towards violence than able)
* Exurgents (and TITAN-derived enemies and tech)
* Exhumans
* Aliens (if Gatecrashing)

In the end, you will see that the base of skills will be 40 (skill) + 10 or 15 (attribute) + tech (morph, implants, gear) for whatever opposes the player's role. Sometimes they will face a professional (skill 50) or a specialist (skill 60-70), and sometimes their stats will be better (attributes 15-20, or 20-25).

The defining factor, however, is that all NPCs will, in the end, have 1-3 main skills and 3-5 (or even 10 in some extreme examples) skills that support the main ones.

So for example, a bunch of "soldiers" that are, in fact, PMCs, could be all stats 10 with a +5 to 2-3 physical ones, "main weapon" 50, secondary weapon 45, dodge 45, melee 40, with support skills like knowledge: [group] tactics 50, knowledge: tactical network tactics 40, etc...
Now, what makes a difference between Gorgon Security and "PMC #32 which opperates on that specific Lunarian Habitat"? Morphs & Gear. Usually, the morphs will have only the default implants, so the important stuff are sensor capabilities, movement categories, vulnerabilities to hacking and so; and the gear will be reduced to an expansion of what they can do, 1-3 weapons, armor, and some extra gear.
Let's say that Gorgon needs to act in several habitats, so their teams are made by up to six members, able to split off in three teams of two. One will provide NetSec, and will have a babysitter with enhanced sensors, maybe some drone capabilities, and won't be hackable but will have some extra Ectos with a muse/beta fork supervising the hacker. The other four will be a paramedic-capable, a heavy weapons user, an infiltrator, and a generic grunt.
This means the generic grunt will carry normal kinetic weapons, for flexibility, usually a rifle with a backup of a pistol, some explosives, and a melee weapon, with some medium armor and a variable morph; the Heavy will carry a weapon that will change depending on the situation (can be a sniper rifle, a beam weapon, a minigun...), possibly a shredder as backup and some eelware and a knife, a bunch of mines and a body able to withstand heavy damage (with obvious armor). The hacker might carry just a pistol, some basic armor, and several layers of implants to help in his duties, maybe even the body is just a platform to carry a cyberbrain, while his minder will carry gear similar to the grunt, but be centered around fortifying positions. The paramedic will look like the grunt, but carry some extra recovery gear and a knife for popping stacks,and the infiltrator will go for a fast and mobile morph, with light armor and weapons ready for close encounters and minimal noise, and implants to avoid detection and sense other sensors (like a thief or assassin).

This makes a group of three similarly equipped guys, an egghead (which might look like the other three!), a big guy, and a light guy. Getting more data from them might demand to hack their tacnet, because they won't carry visual identifiers for others to see.

Now, PMC #32... Very likely 4 guys with basic armor, a regular kinetic rifle, a knife, a security pod, some food rations, some random entertainment stuff and hard to trace credits (aka bribes they got), and some basic sensor enhancement; a paramedic that will look like them but carry a backpack with healing stuff and some idea on how to pop a stack, and an officer, with the same gear, maybe a better body, a pistol, and a ghostrider module. Sure, they will have "TacNet tactics" at 20-30, but on the other side they might have "knowledge: local zone" at 40 due to the amount of time they spend there, and that will give them bonuses to know where the enemy might try to shoot from, move through, flank them...

A bunch of gangers? Sure thing... Intimidation 40, pistol 30, melee/knife/improvised weapons 40, knowledge local 50... with low-end bodies (flat, worker pod, splicer, case...), little idea of what to do, and huge numbers, but poor discipline depending on their gang (and said gang willingness to repair their morph or even provide a new one).

Bottom line, you don't need to flesh out a whole PC sheet for an NPC. If anything, they can be created like Muses, but parting the skills differently, and using the gear to transmit the "fleshed out" feeling to the players.

jwendl jwendl's picture
Thank you for the replies

Love these ideas both of you.

Just thinking in terms of categories of NPC's and defining those. I like it. Also thank you for pointing out PG 48, I def missed that table :-)

Xagroth - when building those out how far do you go with gear and such as well? Does it only matter when a "conflict" will occur or do you plan ahead in case the party decides to go that way.

Xagroth Xagroth's picture
jwendl wrote:

jwendl wrote:

Xagroth - when building those out how far do you go with gear and such as well? Does it only matter when a "conflict" will occur or do you plan ahead in case the party decides to go that way.

Most of the time it's about recycling. If you want more granularity, you can make categories of enemy soldiers, for example: good, hard and rich PMCs will carry more gear, better and be more focused on the dude surviving after the bullets stop flying around. But in general, it's all about cheating:

For example, the NPCs I mentioned before have more skills than those I listed. A player, however, needs not to know precisely where the +10 synergy bonus comes from, or if the dude he just froze had an interest in obscure mayan pictograms, Iktomi cuisine, or Factor porn (to name some ludicrous ideas).

So what I do is to have a package of gear the unit will have (I don't really care who carries it) and use, or not, its contents depending on the flow of the battle. Of course, I can "add" stuff in the heat of the moment if I deem it necessary (not all gangers carry combat drugs, but it can be interesting for one to suddenly require some extra care by the players). So this gear is not set in stone, specially since each NPC will spend his own money in what it feels better (so a particular heavy soldier might have a better quality armor, or a much better weapon(s)). Some variation, on the fly, can give some depth and color.
It's not, after all, as if the players can sell the gear they "capture" (at best, they can disassemble it to recycle the components).

Usually, this means to have generic packages of categories (for example: a medic carrying 3-4 "medpacks", 1 "stasis", 2-4 "healing drugs", etc...) and I choose specifics depending on the hab the players go beforehand, the same with weapons, armor, etc...

About the players wandering about, the good thing we have over a computer game is that we don't need to railroad: we can "shuffle" locations on the fly, changing the names/style/objective as it suits us.
For example, let's say the players are supposed to go to a seedy club to get information, as they punched the clue from an unfortunate mook before. But they decide the mook was lying, is untrustworthy, or the location is too risky, and decide instead to use rep to get another option... Pick that seedy bar, move it to another "zone", change the name and style, repaint it ("it was a guanxi gutter" to "it's a cowboy-themed saloon") and keep what you can of the original encounter.

So, if you want to be prepared, because you find hard to improvise for whatever reason, my suggestion is to think on several locations that the players tend to visit:
* The bar
* The alley
* Maintenance tunnels
* Server rooms
* Guard rooms
* Hotel rooms

Now, you combo with themes: seedy, orderly, old but clean, decayed, classy... Not all will fit ("classy guard room" is a little funny, but you can go with "a guard room like so many, once you see one, you saw all"). The NPCs are the same... no matter if the mooks in the dark hab #32 have the exact same stats and gear than the elite guards in the smuggling ring #12 the Guanxi have near the Venusian aerostat #45, because when describing those to the players you give them a rough sketch:

"The guards are slouched, favouring asian-looking morphs of seedy looks. Many have 3-day shadow, greasy hair and stained, unmarked uniforms. Their armor, ragged as it looks, appears to be serviceable anyway, and their weapons have the shine of the recently recompiled typical of those who prefer to use CMs instead of manual maintenance".

"The control point looks orderly and clean, but the floor and furniture looks scuffed. The guards carry themselves with ease, their gear in very good shape despite only the station's patches being brand new. Their sergeant's piercing eyes, of a frozen blue contrasting with his tanned skin and black hair follows you around, with the wariness of a veteran's hunch and the cautious attitude of a mercenary not quite willing to start problems, yet certain of his men's capacity to end them".

So, both groups of guards have the same skills and gear. They could even have the same composition, regarding roles. But the players see each differently, because the first look like an undisciplined bunch of guns for hire on the down, pointing to the group's Face as troubleshooter if needed be (a bribe), while the second group look like people ready to fight, on the lookout, and maybe a problem if they stir trouble past the point and need to go back.

By placing both groups on different parts of the same habitat, we also mark the first group as guarding the transition to/from the lower parts, while the second group would be found in a transition to/from somewhere important but afar from money. If the players want to run a search, the second group is easy to elaborate into a mercenary company between active jobs, performing guard duty while some new recruits cover their last losses and the reinstanced veterans (that didn't left) test their bodies and train the newbies. And we turned a piece of background into something more than a simple smudge in the back curtain, to at least cardboard trees.

So I plan for certain stuff happening, stuff I can move around (notice how those guards can be placed anywhere that follows their theme... but if placed where the theme contradicts theirs, alarms will sound on the player's heads, which may be precisely what you want!). My style is to have some parts prepared, while letting the players go their merry way with some warnings here and there (muses are great for that, if you want to be inmersive)

syberwasp syberwasp's picture
Glad I could help.

Wow, didn't think that much about allocating equipment. But then again of my 3 games 2 were heavy skills - low combat. The 3rd was a free for all keep what you kill, but equipment was pretty limited to what was in play.

One of the reason I love TTRPG's is so many people have so many creative ways to approach a problem and find amazing solutions.


Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Well, even if there's no

Well, even if there's no combat, what people carry can tell a story, and by way of describing how the masses dress (and the state their clothes are in) you can give a lot of atmosphere to the game, just be carefull not to overdo it.

One of the things to look out for, by the way, is that Cornucopia Machines are accesible everywhere, with some free stuff regardless of where you are.
So people don't usually dress with rags, but with plain, fast to print, carbon-based clothes (funny thought: recycling means they are dressed with poop :p). Going nude (synths) is a choice. And of course, it's not the same thing to see a dark, damp, disrepaired-looking hab with people dressed like peacocks (tons of color, flashy designs...), than that same hab's looks with people in vacuum-capable suits: the first can be a scum barge (waiting for the cleaning bots); the second a hab close to collapsing.

Then again, each group is different: some like the subtle details and grab the ideas to expand them, others prefer the "bare bones" of everything to decide on their actions, etc... Just try some approaches, and ask your players which one they like the most.

For me, the best games are those in which both players and GM give details to the scene that add color and action (no, no tactical nukes laying around are allowed... but an old jukebox you can cover behind would be, so not all go for the same spots every shootout).
And of course, the more the players want to do, the less the GM needs to direct the game, leading to a sandbox that requires some pre-written tools and quick wits.

Fortunately, the only secret for it all is Preparation and Practice :)

CordialUltimate2 CordialUltimate2's picture
I do it somewhat similarly.

I do it somewhat similarly.

If I want to improvise I take a card with prepared profile.
A Proffesional: 60, 50, 40, 40, 30, 30.
A Master: 80, 70, 50, 50, 30, 30
A Fetch: 100, 100, 100, 100, 100, 100
Trainee 20, 20... Etc.

Then I fill in the skills in accordance with the NPC image in my head.

I also give them morph and gear. With 2 qualities archetype and quality. Quality is basically a modifier from a -30 to +30. If the archetype aligns with the skill that the NPC is attempting, they get the bonus. I do not care if it is a gizmo on their belt or a inherent bonus from their morph. It is only important for narrative reasons. (also consistency)

It is really easy to create NPC's this way. Filling in with broad strokes as needed.
Some NPC do not get more than a name and a single skill.
Some interact with the players to the point of their card being scrawled with cryptic notes and almost as detailed as PC character sheet.

There is one caveat though. This doesn't translate to combat well. At least for me.
EP like DnD is held back by its wargame roots. EP2 less than EP1. When initiative is rolled they transitioned to a more precise, more defined and less flexible combat engine.

If you have any more hacks for that part please do share.

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Xagroth Xagroth's picture
CordialUltimate2 wrote:

CordialUltimate2 wrote:

If you have any more hacks for that part please do share.

Sadly, the only "hack" I use for combat is model use, but unlike D&D, the model's position is more abstract than real (so, at least, the map doesn't need a grid scaled for 1 inch-based models), this lets me have some control (as in "knowledge of", not "I decide on...") of where each player and detected enemies are. More often than not, distances are "melee", "same room" (or similar close position for those there... essentially, shredder's range), "zone" (typical firefight inside the neighborhood, which tends to be inside a rifle's range), Strategic Range (sniper rifles, artillery range...), and "out of combat" (can't affect the combat anyway).
A quick sketch with a whiteboard pen over an A3 of the situation, not necessarily to scale, and it's good to go, considering not everything can be used in the "zones" (because it's a space station without enough open spaces for the use of a sniper rifle, or a maze of caves, etc...), but a net specialist can always offer some support.

Aside from that, depending on the amount of interactions I can waive some rolls to generate tension without crashing the fight down, but I tend to encourage my players to go for fast, intense and short engagements: spies do not fight prolonged battles, spies make sure to have plans so the situation can be solved, either with words or plasma, one way or another (cleaners are who you send for protracted battles).

On the other hand, if I need to make some sort of "big battle", I've used some hacks: "set a passive defense", "group NPC activations", and "roll only one dice": for NPCs, I try to make all skills in tens, so I can just roll 1d10 instead of 2d10 per NPC "group" in combat when there are many attacking the players, and their Defense I just roll it once for all of the group at the beginning of the round, since when I need to roll only one dice per NPC group, this allows me to keep the pressure and detailed tests on the players.

In other words: the best way to manage big things is to make sure that the biggest chunk of work is on the player's lap