Category Archives: Uncategorized

NPC Interaction with Mutants

While every GM is free to define his world and his NPCs as he sees fit, the “default” setting of The Savage Soul (i.e., the aftermath of Yellow Mike and the Great Destruction) envisions a world where mutants are universally feared and hated by non-mutant humans.  As a result, when a character has any “Mutation” Peculiarity, it comes with the built-in disadvantage of widespread prejudice.  This is why Peculiarities such as “PW: Deceptive Appearance (1)” and “SP: Non-Mutant Augmentation” are valuable.

For each group of NPCs in his world, the GM must decide that group’s typical attitude toward mutants, which may range from murderous hostility to (in very rare cases) tolerance and acceptance.  A group like the Combine (Section 2.7.8), for example, is openly hostile toward all mutants and seeks to eradicate them.  This does not necessarily mean any given Combine member will mindlessly attack any mutant he sees (although he might); he will, however, likely refuse to associate with the mutant, subject the mutant to rude behavior, and seek opportunities to bring about the mutant’s eventual demise (possibly by reporting the mutant’s existence and whereabouts to Combine units better suited to engage with lethal force).

Most NPC groups (the average human settlement, for example) will not be quite so hostile toward mutants; but most (if not all) will genuinely believe one or more of the following:

  • Mutants are dangerous and unpredictable and cannot be trusted.
  • All mutants are secretly (if not openly) evil.
  • All mutants secretly (if not openly) hate non-mutant humans.
  • Mutants are unclean (or cursed) and exposure to mutants can cause disease or other maladies.

Keeping these deeply held beliefs in mind will help the GM decide how any given NPC would likely react to any given mutant.  For example: On an ordinary day, merchants, innkeepers, bartenders, and the like might refuse service to mutants, and townspeople might seek to drive mutants away.  In desperate times, however, these same proprietors and townspeople might grudgingly tolerate mutants that are willing to help solve problems . . . but be quick to fall back upon old prejudices once those problems are solved.

In any case, being a mutant should not be something a character can easily disregard.  And the GM should make a point of reminding such characters that, for them, few places in the world are truly friendly.

NPC vs. NPC Quick Kill System

Bonus rules for an NPC vs. NPC Quick Kill System have been posted to “Generators & More.” This system is meant for battles in which fairly generic NPCs are fighting one another, either with or without accompanying PCs and/or less-generic NPCs. When resolving the attack of one generic NPC against another, the GM need only determine a modifier based upon the relative XP Totals of the attacker and defender (including an appropriate XP equivalent for combat equipment). The GM then rolls 2d10, adds the modifier (plus other applicable modifiers, such as IC, Fatigue, Range, etc.), and applies the result.

For example: If a 1,500 Total XP Royal Guard shoots his GR2 Rifle at a 300 Total XP Starving Rebel at a range of 30 meters, his total Quick Kill modifier will be +2 (i.e., +3 for the XP difference and -1 for the range). The GM then rolls 2d10 and adds 2 for a total of 14. The Starving Rebel suffers a Serious Wound and must discard his Ready Token. During the next combat round, the Starving Guard returns fire with his own GR2 Rifle and has a total modifier of -6 (i.e., -3 for the XP difference, -1 for the range, and -2 for being Seriously Injured). The GM then rolls 2d10 and subtracts 6 for a total of 9, and the Starving Rebel’s attack has no effect.

This rule is entirely optional, and a GM should feel free to use it always, sometimes, or never.

GM Advice: Adventurers are NOT Tourists

As with all “GM Advice” posts, feel free to take this with a grain of salt.

One of the first things any student of literature or creative writing learns is that an interesting story necessarily involves conflict (man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. himself, etc.) This is just as true (if not more true) when it comes to role playing games. If an “adventure” doesn’t involve conflict of some sort, it’s just a tour.

More specifically, in my years of gaming, I can remember a handful of adventures where the GM came up with a “cool idea” and that idea was the adventure. In other words, the PCs were just passive observers of the GM’s cool idea . . . which is seldom as engaging as the GM thinks it will be.

As one example, a GM once ran an “adventure” that involved a town stuck in a time loop. Within the time loop, the Great Destruction had not yet occurred and, as a result, all of the town’s residents repeatedly went about their daily activities, over and over, blissfully unaware of the nightmarish world outside the town’s borders. Is this a “cool” idea? Yes. But is it an “adventure”? No. It could have been a great basis for an adventure . . . but, in this case, the cool idea was the “adventure.”

It didn’t take long for the PCs to realize what was happening in the town and, at that moment, “experience” the GM’s cool idea. But, thereafter, the game was just a series of meaningless conversations with oblivious NPCs who were in complete denial that anything was out of the ordinary. Throughout these conversations and our exploration of the town, the PCs tried to identify their purpose. Were the PCs meant to break the curse and end the time loop? Was there some critical piece of information in the timeless town that would help the PCs solve some other problem? In my opinion, either of these (or anything similar) would have given the PCs and the town a purpose. The cool idea might then have been a memorable backdrop to a memorable adventure.

The same thing can inadvertently happen when a GM designs an elaborate city or other “interesting” location or situation and guides the PCs through the location or situation, describing in detail what they see and experience, without ever making the PCs part of the story. As in the example above, the GM is putting his creativity and/or “world building” skill on display without affording the PCs any significant role. In other words, the GM is setting a scene without presenting the required conflict to make it a story. And players are likely to get bored.

For clarification, the “conflict” need not involve combat. It might be a mystery the PCs need to solve, an NPC the PCs need to persuade, an item or person the PCs need to find, etc. Having such a purpose will encourage the PCs to experience and enjoy the details of the GM’s cool idea or setting without feeling like mere tourists. Ultimately, this will make the game more meaningful, memorable, and enjoyable for everyone.