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Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game

It’s game night. Fifteen minutes before the guys show up and you start rolling some dice and blowing off the stress of the work week. And, if you don’t say so yourself, you’ve really outdone yourself in your prep work this time. You not only have a compelling adventure including an awesome, possibly recurring villain, but you’ve thought of all the possible ways that the PCs might conduct their assault on his lair and come up with contingencies within contingencies, but you have a full write-up of dialogue for the old man that’s going to give them the quest as well as well thought-out answers to any questions the PCs might have for him. You sit down, and you introduce the scene.

Less than a minute later, it’s all over like a bad date. The party leader looks you square in the eye and says, “We want to go talk to the high priest about this tower that’s appeared outside of town.”

In shock, a look of intense disappointment on your face, you ask him “You want to talk to who?”

“The high priest.”

Looking down at your notes, you rifle through the various pages looking for something, anything that can help you out in this situation. You find nothing about a high priest. You’re not even sure if this town has a temple much less what religion they are! The next decision will be crucial. Do you:

A) Curl up into a fetal position and start crying?

B) Angrily insist that your players go to the bar and do the adventure like you’ve written it?

C) Close your eyes and fervently disbelieve your players sitting around the table? or

D) Call for a five minute break and reach for your copy of Masks from the guys at Gnomestew.com you have in your bag for just such an occasion to pull out an NPC to play the high priest?

If you answered D, you’re going to be just fine. If you answered any of the other three, it had better be because you don’t yet own a copy of Masks. And if that’s the case, then run, don’t walk, to http://www.enginepublishing.com to order yourself a copy of this book.

Seriously, everyone who GMs or even thinks that they might want to GM sometime in the future needs a copy of this book. It is that good, and that invaluable a resource.

Like their last success, Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots, Masks is a gaming aid. It’s designed to be system and (to a lesser degree) setting neutral in order to give the GM ready options should they find themselves stuck at the table for who the PCs should talk to or interact with. It’s filled near to bursting with the skeletons of NPCs just waiting for you to hang the skin over and make your own,  providing you with ways to roleplay them, give them proper motivation, and even a believable background to build on.

The first chapter is an explanation of how to use the book. More than that, it really goes into an explanation of what makes a memorable NPC well, memorable. It offers a variety of tips and tricks on how to fully utilize the various NPCs in this book, as well as make your own and give them that certain spark and staying power in your campaign world. It introduces and explains the various keywords that they use to describe their NPCs as well as gives insight into what I feel may be the most useful part of this book for some GMs- the Name Ribbon. On the bottom of every page containing NPCs is a list of names. On one page is a list of first names. On the opposite is a list of titles and surnames, all of them genre appropriate for the chapter they appear in. Did your PCs piss you off again by asking you the name of an NPC? Fret no longer! Just open to a page in the book and pick one out.

This chapter also gives some great advice on using the various NPCs in genres that they aren’t necessarily designed for in broad strokes. For example, is the character defined by a ranged weapon, like a marksman or a warrior? Well, this weapon could be a crossbow in a fantasy game, a rifle in a modern game, or a zat gun or a laser cannon in a sci-fi game. The characters in this book are written in such a way that nearly all of them can be easily “reskinned” into any of the other genres, and are a good start for writing your own in a similar way.

The 1,000 NPCs (and yes, there really are that many), are divided into three chapters, each containing three sections. They are first largely divided by genre – fantasy, science fiction, and modern (a catch-all term for everything not clearly defined as either fantasy or science fiction). They are then further divided into one of three groups: Ally, Enemy, or Neutral. Each of those is exactly what it sounds like – friend, bad guys, and everyone else.

Each NPC is presented in the following format

Name – The characters name

Two Phrase Description – This is a capsule description of the NPC, a headline if you will. Things like Stupid Bouncer, Alien Warlord, or Power Mad Sorcerer to give you a quick mental image of the character.

Descriptive Quote – This is a piece of dialogue that you can use to help get an early image of the character. From the mysterious assassin who you hear chamber his next round to the roustabout calling for another pint, this can sometimes be all the more you need to start playing the character.

Appearance Notes – This section describes what the NPC looks like, what they wear, and gives a general description on some of his mannerisms.

Roleplaying Notes – This section of the NPC write-up gives you advice on how to play the character at the table. What parts should you play up, what parts should you play down? What can you grab from this character to really make them “pop?”

Personality Notes – Is this character a little bit country? Or are they a little bit rock and roll? Or are they just plain creepy. This is a small description of the character’s personality and social mannerisms.

Motivation Notes – Characters don’t exist in a vacuum. Well… let me rephrase that. Believable characters don’t exist in a vacuum. What drives this character? What makes him want to do what he does?

Background Notes – “Jim was born to wealthy parents and was sent to the finest university where he promptly washed out, bought a bike, and started a gang.” Okay, so they aren’t that short, but that’s the basic gist of this section. It gives you a little bit of insight into the character’s history and as to why he is where he is today. This can also provide some great ideas should the NPC become recurring or a PC favorite.

Traits – This is a list of a few traits to describe the character in a few words that you can use at the table real quick. They are also one of the ways that the authors have indexed the NPCs at the end of the book. Looking for a beautiful young maid to woo one of the players? Flip open to the back of the book, find the “beautiful” trait and flip to the listed pages. The traits are described in further detail in the first chapter of the book.

So there you have it. Seriously. If you buy one gaming supplement this month, this year, make it this one. You may never read it cover to cover, but I guarantee that you will use it more than you think you will. Honestly.

Thanks for the book guys. I’m waiting on next years “1503 Items of Mystery.” ;)

 

Here’s where you can buy your copy of the book: http://www.enginepublishing.com/masks-1000-memorable-npcs-for-any-roleplaying-game

If you want to keep up with the Gnomes, you can do so here: http://www.gnomestew.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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Rewriting the Book on [Non]Heroics

After reading Rodney Thompson’s lessons learned from the Dawn of Defiance campaign and his issue with encounters being harder to create the higher in level the party got, I started thinking and looking at some things with the game. I think one of the cores of the issue is the way the nonheroic class is written. When taken as written, it just doesn’t scale with the party. The stormtrooper that is a threat at 1st level just isn’t a threat at 10th level anymore. While in some games – such as Dungeons and Dragons – this isn’t a problem, since there’s always something bigger and badder around the next dungeon turn, this isn’t the same case with Star Wars where the PCs will be fighting against many of the same opponents throughout their careers.

As it stands, the only way to make the basic stormtrooper a threat is to add levels of the basic heroic classes and prestige classes, or simply create a new enemy stat block which can add a lot of work to the GM’s plate. So in an effort to try and help these NPCs scale a little bit better, and help reduce the GMs work, I’ve started work on doing a rewrite of the nonheroic class.

Inspired by the minion rules from Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, I basically broke the nonheroic class into two classes, the “irregular” and the “regular.”

Irregulars represent the basic footsoldiers of various military organizations, from the raw stormtrooper recruit to the B1 Battle Droid squad to the Chazrach shock troops of the Yuuzhan Vong forces. These are the opponents that we see characters in the films and EU dispatch with ease and are emulated through the rules in order to carry the same basic premise in game.

The irregular follows the basic progression of the nonheroic class: three feats at first level chosen from the list on page 278 of the Core rulebook, are trained in a number of skills equal to 1 + their Int modifier (also chosen from the list on page 278), and have a poor BAB. But that’s where the similarities end. Here are the proposed changes.

Hit Points:
Irregulars don’t gain hit points as normal. Their hit points are always equal to 1. Any attack that hits them is enough to take them out of the fight. A stun weapon that breaks their damage threshold after being halved is enough to put them at the bottom of the condition track. Area attacks that deal half damage on a miss never deal damage to an irregular on a miss.

Feats: Irregulars only gain a feat every five character levels instead of every three.

Defense Bonuses: Irregulars add a +1 bonus to all their Defenses every four levels.

Damage Bonus:
Every four levels an irregular deals an additional point of damage with all of his attacks.

Damage Expression:
An irregular deals a flat damage expression instead of rolling. The damage varies by weapon, but is always equal to 1/3 of the weapon’s maximum damage (minimum 1), plus any modifiers from high or low Strength. For example, a stormtrooper with a blaster rifle (maximum damage 24) deals 8 points of damage if he hits.

No Multiclassing: Irregulars can never take levels in other classes.

Experience Awards: Irregulars are worth 1/4 the total experience that an opponent of the same CL is worth. For example, a level 1 irregular is worth 50 XP while a level 20 irregular is worth 1,000.

Here’s an example of how a basic Stormtrooper from the Core Rulebook would progress as an irregular:

Stormtrooper
Medium Human irregular 1
Dark Side 1
Init +0; Senses low-light vision; Perception +7
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 16 (flat-footed 16), Fort 12, Will 10
hp 1; Thresh 12
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +1 (2 damage)
Ranged blaster rifle +0 (8 damage) or
Ranged frag grenade +0 (8 damage, 2-square burst)
Base Atk +0; Grp +1
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle)
Abilities Str 12, Dex 11, Con 11, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Weapon Proficiencies (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +5, Perception +7
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

Medium Human irregular 4
Dark Side 1
Init +3; Senses low-light vision; Perception +9
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 17 (flat-footed 16), Fort 13, Will 11
hp 1; Thresh 13
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +4 (3 damage)
Ranged blaster rifle +4 (9 damage) or
Ranged frag grenade +4 (9 damage, 2-square burst)
Base Atk +3; Grp +4
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle)
Abilities Str 12, Dex 12, Con 11, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +7, Perception +9
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

Medium Human irregular 8
Dark Side 1
Init +5; Senses low-light vision’ Perception +11
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 17 (flat-footed 16), Fort 15, Will 12
hp 1; Thresh 15
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +7 (4 damage)
Ranged blaster rifle +8 (10 damage) or
Ranged frag grenade +7 (10 damage, 2-square burst)
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle), Weapon Focus (rifles)
Abilities Str 12, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Weapon Focus (rifles), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +9, Perception +11
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

Medium Human irregular 12
Dark Side 1
Init +7; Senses low-light vision; Perception +13
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 17 (flat-footed 16), Fort 16, Will 13
hp 1; Thresh 16
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +10 (5 damage)
Ranged blaster rifle +11 (11 damage) or
Ranged frag grenade +10 (11 damage, 2-square burst)
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle), Weapon Focus (rifles)
Special Actions Coordinated Attack
Abilities Str 12, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Coordinated Attack, Weapon Focus (rifles), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +11, Perception +13
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

Medium Human irregular 16
Dark Side 1
Init +10; Senses low-light vision; Perception +15
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 18 (flat-footed 16), Fort 17, Will 14
hp 1; Thresh 17
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +13 (6 damage)
Ranged blaster rifle +15 (12 damage) or
Ranged frag grenade +14 (12 damage, 2-square burst)
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle), Weapon Focus (rifles)
Special Actions Blaster Barrage, Coordinated Attack
Abilities Str 12, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Blaster Barrage, Coordinated Attack, Weapon Focus (rifles), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +13, Perception +15
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

Medium Human irregular 20
Dark Side 1
Init +12; Senses low-light vision Perception +17
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 18 (flat-footed 16), Fort 18, Will 15
hp 1; Thresh 18
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +16 (7 damage)
Ranged blaster rifle +18 (13 damage) or
Ranged blaster rifle +16 (15 damage) or
Ranged frag grenade +17 (13 damage, 2-square burst)
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle), Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (rifles)
Special Actions Blaster Barrage, Coordinated Attack
Abilities Str 13, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Blaster Barrage, Coordinated Attack, Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (rifles), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +15, Perception +17
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

The “regular” class is designed for those NPCs that are more experienced than the typical foot soldier, representing the elites of the various factions, such as the stormtroopers of Vader’s 501st, or the ARC troopers of the Republic Military or many of the elite warriors of the Yuuzhan Vong forces.

The “regular” follows all of the rules for the nonheroic class, except for the following:

Hit Points: The regular gains 12 hit points plus their Constitution modifier at 1st level. At every level thereafter they gain 1d6 hit points plus their Constitution modifier.

Defense Bonus: The regular adds half of his level to all of his Defenses.

Experience Awards: When awarding XP for a regular, they are worth 1/2 the listed amount for a character of the same CL.

Stormtrooper
Medium Human regular 1
Dark Side 1
Init +0; Senses low-light vision, Perception +7
Langauges Basic
Defenses Ref 16 (flat-footed 16), Fort 12, Will 10
hp 12; Thresh 12
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +1 (1d4+1)
Ranged blaster rifle +0 (3d8) or
Ranged frag grenade +0 (4d6, 2-square burst)
Base Atk +0; Grp +1
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle)
Abilities Str 12, Dex 11, Con 11, In 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +5, Perception +7
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

Medium Human regular 5
Dark Side 1
Init +3; Senses low-light vision; Perception +9
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 17 (flat-footed 16), Fort 14, Will 12
hp 26; Thresh 14
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +4 (1d4+1)
Ranged blaster rifle +5 (3d8) or
Ranged frag grenade +4 (4d6, 2-square burst)
Base Atk +3; Grp +4
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle), Weapon Focus (rifles)
Abilities Str 12, Dex 12, Con 11, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Weapon Focus (rifles), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +7, Perception +9
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

Medium Human regular 10
Dark Side 1
Init +6; Senses low-light vision; Perception +12
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 17 (flat-footed 16), Fort 18, Will 15
hp 53; Thresh 18
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +8 (1d4+1)
Ranged blaster rifle +9 (3d8) or
Ranged frag grenade +8 (4d6, 2-square burst)
Base Atk +7; Grp +8
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle), Weapon Focus (rifles)
Special Actions Blaster Barrage. Coordinated Attack
Abilities Str 12, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Blaster Barrage, Coordinated Attack, Weapon Focus (rifles), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +11, Perception +12
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

Medium Human regular 15
Dark Side 1
Init +8; Senses low-light vision; Perception +14
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 17 (flat-footed 16), Fort 20, Will 17
hp 76; Thresh 20
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +12 (1d4+1)
Ranged blaster rifle +13 (3d8) or
Ranged blaster rifle +11 (4d8) with Rapid Shot or
Ranged blaster rifle +8/+8 (3d8) with Double Attack or
Ranged frag grenade +12 (4d6, 2-square burst)
Base Atk +11; Grp +12
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle), Double Attack (rifles), Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (rifles)
Special Actions Blaster Barrage, Coordinated Attack
Abilities Str 13, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Blaster Barrage, Coordinated Attack, Double Attack (rifles), Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (rifles), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +13, Perception +14
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

Medium Human regular 20
Dark Side 1
Init +12; Senses low-light vision; Perception +17
Languages Basic
Defenses Ref 18 (flat-footed 16), Fort 23, Will 20
hp 98; Thresh 23
Speed 6 squares
Melee unarmed +16 (1d4+1)
Ranged blaster rifle +18 (3d8) or
Ranged blaster rifle +16 (4d8) with Rapid Shot or
Ranged blaster rifle +13/+13 (3d8) with Double Attack or
Ranged frag grenade +17 (4d6, 2-square burst)
Base Atk +15, Grp +16
Atk Options autofire (blaster rifle), Double Attack (rifles), Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (rifles)
Special Actions Blaster Barrage, Coordinated Attack
Abilities Str 13, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10
Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Blaster Barrage, Coordinated Attack, Double Attack (rifles), Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus (rifles), Weapon Focus (pistols rifles, simple weapons)
Skills Endurance +16, Perception +17
Possessions stormtrooper armor (+6 armor, +2 equipment), blaster rifle, frag grenade, utility belt with medpac

This still requires extensive playtesting, but I’m fairly confident that this is going to do the thing I want them to do. Already, it allows a GM who had enough forethought to write up progressions of the major NPCs his party is going to run across with both versions of the class in order to drop them into an encounter when he needs them instead of having to try and convert things as they run across them. I still have to look at how these changes are going to affect rules for building squads as well as mass combat, but those are topics for a different post.

For now, if anyone is more interested in helping me playtest these rules, let me know, either here or on the d20 Radio boards (my user name is Cyril).

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