NPC CharGen method needs scrutiny

I need some help from the community in respect to an Unofficial Guide to Mouse Guard I’m working on.

What is your general pattern for building NPCs–not just one-time cameos. I don’t mean to ask how do you choose from the available list in the book; I can handle that decision-making on my own. I mean, what do you do when building an NPC who is a PC relationship, or a key NPC in the campaign you want to give at least a 2-dimensional treatment.

I’ve been working on an NPC Recruitment pattern and need advice. I’m working on my process for creating sample NPC mice who are not members of the Guard. It is a bit developed, but I’ve reached a point I know is not pleasing me. In favor of iterative design, I want to pause right away and get a grasp on what is missing.

Currently, the (non-Guard) NPC CharGen kinda looks like so:
—Determine Nature (mouse) by table of age:Nature followed by 2 questions
—determine Health and Will by table of age:ratings followed by 2 questions
—determine Circles and resources by table of age:ratings followed by 3 questions
—select Hometown for Skill and Trait
—describe Upbringing for Skill and Trait (in other words, combines Natural Talent, Parents’ Trade, Convince Others, Born Trait, Parents’ Trait)
—describe Mentorship for Skill, Wise, and Trait (to absorb some of Experience in Guard, Specialty, Life on Road, and some of Particularly Knowledgeable)
—describe Apprenticeship for Skill, Wise, and Trait (to absorb remaining of Experience in Guard, Particularly Knowledgeable)

The whole pattern is not totally nailed in place, but that is the general idea. Nature => Abilities => Upbringing => Mentorship => Apprenticeship. At that point, the intended result is a sample NPC mouse has a small collection of skills, wises, and traits as well as a slightly unique stat board for multiple use during various sessions of a campaign.

Now, the above is not the greatest trouble. I am having trouble without ranks by trying to determine social grouping–not social class or status–based around livelihood-related identity. The groups are:

  • Movers & Shakers
  • Scribes & Skalds
  • Smiths & Wrights
  • Crafters & Makers
  • Brewers & Millers
  • Bakers & Cooks
  • Wild Mice
  • Lore Mice
  • Labor Mice
  • Harvest Mice
  • Science Mice
  • Merchant Mice

I don’t have a group that easily absorbs skilled Healers. I’m not certain where Apiarists and Insectrists belong. Fighters and Hunters aren’t absorbed at all. Also, I’m seeing that some categories blend a variety of skills while others (Bakers & Cooks, Harvest Mice) are narrow.

Those groups were intended initially to focus the skills and wises available and appropriate to list. I would like to avoid creating additional categories in order to more clearly split broad groups…but…hey, that’s why I paused to look things over.

Lastly, I’ve got this idea about a template pattern which is not like the social category, but more like a add-on guide to more deeply entrench an NPC in their identity. These template patterns were stolen from my (currently not under scrutiny) method of creating Guard NPC mice (when needed). In that case, I plan to implement the Recruitment pretty nearly wholesale, so the pattern is basically saying, “for this step, make these choices and the result will lead to a [trope].”

For example, the Trailblazer template pattern is intended to tell a GM or player how to make choices that will build a Guard member who screams, “I’m a TRAILBLAZER!” in Skills, Wises, Traits, and Contacts–oh, and Gear.

Ok, well If you want to help out, let me know. I’ve got to find at least a few minds to bounce ideas off and hopefully get back on track.

If those 12 categories are indicating wealth I would narrow them down and create wider ones. Like landowners, labourers, crafters, learned ones and merchants. I think those would absorb all kind of trades

That actually brings a good question to mind. In most of my groups, the wealth is partially defined by the talent, but I’ve only made special adjustments for the Movers & Shakers, Merchants, and Scientists in regard to Resources. Others could be more or less wealthy. However, I’ve tried to keep in mind that an NPC will far less often really need to roll out Resources–that’s a test the PCs are probably rolling for themselves. So, the question you brought to mind is, “Do the categories really need to indicate stratification of wealth?” My gut reaction is, “No. The categories need to stratify Skills and Wises.”

The first benefit is that I can reduce the number of categories by making several more broad:
*Wild Mice: Laborer, Loremouse, Wises (they don’t really practice skills, but are identified best by what they know)
*Lore Mice: Loremouse, Weather Watcher, Harvester, Apiarist, Insectrist, Wises (might know a craft, trade, or service, but are primarily identified by contact with the natural world)
*Labor Mice: Laborer, Harvester, Baker, Brewer, Cook, Miller, Apiarist, Insectrist, Wises (could be considered Crafters, but the produce is readily consumed and gone)
*Craft Mice: Weaver, Potter, Glazier, Armorer, Smith, Carpenter, Wises (create products which are not consumed, but used over lengthy periods; can repair products if needed)
*Trade Mice: Stonemason, Carpenter, Boatcrafter, Cartographer, Wises (create products which are used over very lengthy timelines, and most work comes by way of repairs)
*Science Mice: Scientist, Wises (they might know a craft, trade, or service, but are primarily identified by contact with scientific topics)
*Service Mice: Healer, Administrator, Archivist, Instructor, Hunter, Fighter, Militarist, Pathfinder, Survivalist, Scout, Wises (provide service which is readily consumed, but has impact)
*Merchant Mice: Haggler, Wises (primarily identified by buying/selling, and moving goods/wealth; know about labors, crafts, trades, and services more so than performing the work)

This creates 8 paths which identify and stratify the Skills and Wises which are accessible; I still might want some crossover among Labor, Craft, and Trade. Science Mice, Lore Mice, and Wild Mice are fairly pigeonholed toward one path of life. It might be beneficial to absorb Scientists into Service Mice and basically say their talent is a service for hire–hopefully by one who will use it wisely. Lore Mice could fit as a service, but I don’t want them identified as, ‘animal whisperer for hire’. Hmmm, may need to to id anyhow. Wild Mice could be dropped in favor of using a template pattern which simply guides choices in the process instead of arranging options in the process or restricting choices. Otherwise, Wild Mice could simply be treated as Animal NPCs (which I’ve only scratched the surface) rather than Mice NPCs.

Those considerations could reduce the list to 6: Lore, Labor, Craft, Trade, Service, Merchant.

That is fairly more manageable.

I did drop the Movers & Shakers. I really liked the idea behind it, but it will work better as a template pattern, guiding choices. That should ensure a Mover & Shaker can emerge among any group with any talents. They are defined best by social Skills, Wises, and Traits. So, I’d just have to make sure those options are available in the CharGen process such that a pattern encouraging those choices is valid. Likewise, Scribes & Skalds disappears, so I’ll need a template pattern for that too. It is probably best if they emerge among merchants and services rather than crafts and trades; however, I can imagine they pick up Laborer when the performance circuit is dull.

I think I’ll implement the 6 listed categories, build up a few more template patterns, and reduce out some of the special changes to Nature, Health, Will, Circles, and Resources (which I’ve got written in at the moment). Each of those categories easily could illustrate any rating for Abilities. One may think the Merchants deserve better resources, but I disagree–they are just as much subject to financial ups and downs as any other group. Also, this stratifies the Skills and Wises as well as suggesting some stratification of Traits.

Look sbetter to me : )