One-Off NPCs... when?

(Gorsh) #1

Hi, a year later and I’m still pondering about the various ways NPCs are meant to be created in Burning Empires. We’re about to start the Usurpation phase now, after 10 sessions stretched out throughout a year in which we played a very cool and wicked first phase.

The case that has me troubled is this: one of my players, the PC FoN during the Infiltration, wanted to join the enemy noble houses in the planet so he married his son (completely made up at that point, simply “color”) with an NPC (statted, as a relationship for two other characters) of the other family. Later in the game, the planet’s Forged Lord (The Inf’s GMFoN) died at his hands, having been exposed as a worm. So now the power falls onto this couple, and this completely color kind of NPC becomes very important in the fiction… ¿How would you run that in the game?
A) Keeping it as a “color” of the game, with everyone else running DoWs against each other to influence him to do their will.
B) Using Circles roll to “Contact” him, with the option of making him a Relationship per the “Building Relationship From Circles”
C) Have one of my remaining FoNs pay from the GM’s Reserves to burn him fully. That would solve it, except both the other FoNs have little to do with him, in the fiction…
D) Stating him up anyway, as a full NPC… but on who’s camp?

My problem is that I was under the impression that, in order to create an NPC as the GM, you HAD to pay from the Reserves, or use the rules from Circles; period. And now I re-read the back of the book, where there’s the rules from “One-Off NPCs” and I’m confused… Am I supposed to burn other NPCs too? If so, how do I know if they should come from the FoNs reserves or not?

Anyway, I hope there’s someone reading this; have a happy new year… and I’ll stand by waiting for some guidance.

(Colin Booth) #2

Awesome that your game is going! Good luck making it the full three Phases (something I was never able to do, mosty because of time).

Two possibilities, depending on if it’s the PCs or the GM who wants to make the relationship:
PCs: Circles to contact, then getting as a relationship. Ideally a relationship to the PC Infiltration FoN (I mean, the NPC is already their kid).
GM: Figure out a way that makes sense to get your relationship claws into the son and then buy him out of your reserve.

Either way, I’d burn up the character sooner rather than later, since it’ll most likely matter.

To create an NPC, the GM can just create an NPC, giving them mechanical weight as necessary. Anybody can be one-offed if needed (need a quick loan shark with Persuasion and Intimidation? Go for it), the limitations in the one-off NPC section are to keep those characters focused as befits their temporary status. That isn’t to say everyone needs to be one-off created: a Mukhadish heavy whose sole purpose is to stand behind his boss and scowl is great color, but probably won’t need to be created. The rules for the Reserve are that you can buy them as relationships from the reserve, but again that doesn’t stop an NPC thug created through a failed circles roll from having the Close Combat skill.

If you expect the character to be more important than a single quick scene, do the work for Crucial Opposition and give them a full burn. It’s pretty quick for a 4 LP character, especially if you know the character’s current state. Even doing Crucial Opposition burns don’t require an expendeture from the reserve if the character isn’t expected to stick around. A media tyrant in her broadcast-fortress doesn’t need to circle up her ex-Anvil Captain head of security to deal with the PCs when they sneak in, assuming it makes sense that her broadcast-fortress would have a security force and she’s paid the resources to be correctly placed at the head of the organization. She would need to circle up or reserve purchase her head of security if she wanted access to him outside of what fictionally made sense.

tl;dr: burn up as necessary, NPCs can exist with stats regardless of their relationship status, the GM FoN circles reserve is for buying relationships to characters, not for creating characters.

Hope that helps!

(Gorsh) #3

First of all, thanks for the answer!!! We have been chewing on this for a while…

So, it looks like we have been playing under a too restricted reading of the rules (we kinda got too taken by the competitive side of BE… ). Still, it’s gonna be difficult to know when an NPC should be circled and when it’s “obviously there” in terms of fiction; it’s a very gray area and, in the heat of the moment, my players tend to squeeze the rules to their advantage (to be fair, me too).

Regarding the new Forged Lord; I think I’ll fight to influence him with the wife character and others, but I won’t waste my points on burning him on my side. I have a little more devious plan in place for him; one that involves his soon-to-be “worm-lover” wife… :twisted:

Anyway, thank you and we’ll post around here with some next question as we dive into the Usurpation phase (which we have been playing for like, half the Infiltration, anyway).

(Colin Booth) #4

It’s less difficult than you’d think. Circle when it feels right, invent when necessary, etc. Remember that as the GM you have two roles: run the opposition, adjudicate the game. Sometimes those two go hand in hand, sometimes they don’t. The rules exist in order to help the GM separate those two tasks. My standard BE GM advice is the same as always: play hard but play by the rules.

As for the Forged Lord, remember the rule on page 193. It’s a somewhat different case but still should be taken to heart. If your plan is to hull the Forged Lord, it might make sense to lock that down via your reserves. Though as always, it depends on how aggressive your players are.

(Gorsh) #5

You mean the part about not being “sneaky”? I’m not following.

(Colin Booth) #6

Less about being sneaky and more about clearly defining the purpose of the character. If they are meant to be a key part of your strategy they should be made a relationship. If they are temporary (regardless of their affiliation) then you probably don’t need to worry about that. Remember that spending resources on a character means two things: firstly, that you have them on your side; secondly, and this one is more important, that the character is important enough to spend a limited resource on (be it tests or circles reserve).