When to give NPCs artha (and how much)

So discussion in: When to roll for an NPC got me thinking about NPC artha.

I’m wondering if anyone has any advice on how much artha to give NPCs, and maybe more importantly when to use it?

There are some old topics on this, notably NPC Artha, but mainly focussed on how much artha to give.

I’ve tried giving major NPCs artha, but when I use it I kinda feel like I’m cheating. I’m subverting the expectations of the players, and messing with their intuition about the odds of certain rolls. It’s not actually that bad when using persona for +1D, but using fate where there are lots of 6’s feels unsatisfying.

I’ve had the players give NPCs persona for things like MVP, and sometimes for completion of beliefs (or what they infer the beliefs to be). This feels fine, and we had a nice moment where the players turned on an NPC who then used that persona against them.

So any advice on how to work NPC artha in? Am I missing out on a way to make the game more interesting? Would you stick to persona for +1D, or work in fate and the other persona rules (eg greed)?

I’ll add we don’t tend to have too many extended conflicts (fight!, DOW, etc), where there are lots of small rolls to eat up fate.

So my biggest question around this is that Burning Empires really wants me to give my NPCs artha, and The Codex wants me to give NPCs Persona Points for PCs failing Faith rolls (pg 273).

This makes me want to give some NPCs Artha. But I have never done it. When people have failed Faith rolls I’ve given them 1/2 their margin of failure as +Ob when opposing someone for example, rather than giving persona.

But I almost always give my NPCs BITs to drive them, often to set the scene and to give them personal goals.

Basically - I feel like I always want to give my NPCs the Artha cycle - but not give them artha and rely on Saying Yes and the Situation to set difficulty.

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I often have important NPCs get Artha the same we as player characters, but with less rigor. Pressing their Beliefs (which is generally me challenging the players or pushing my own priorities) gets a Fate point, personal goals and embodiment see some play too. And, of course, humor occasionally comes up. Instincts are much rarer.

Generally NPCs have less to work with.

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It’s touched on briefly under Earning Artha (BWGR, page 63). Players may nominate the GM’s NPCs for artha awards as they see fit.

There’s a bit more in the Codex: Artha for NPCs (BWC, page 105).

If it’s an important antagonist and I’ve taken the time to actually burn them up, I’ll sometimes give them a Fate point and Persona point. My preference, though, is for the players to award the NPCs any artha they have. It means I have to get the NPC on stage to chew the scenery a bit before I can pull out artha in a conflict.

When we do artha awards at the end of the session, I encourage my players to speak up if one or more of my NPCs really engaged them during the session. Was it my performance? I give the NPC a Persona point. Was it some action the NPC took that is related to their beliefs? I give them a Fate point.

I keep it at no more than one per session and it’s not an award they give every session. NPCs have far fewer opportunities to spend artha, so I never want them to have very much. When the players are the ones that awarded the artha, it doesn’t feel cheap.

If the players give artha to an NPC that I’ve created using the Rogue’s Gallery method rather than a full burn, I’ll usually take that as a cue to give the NPC a bit more attention and round them out.

Under no circumstances give mooks or unimportant NPCs artha. Keep it for the important antagonists, or you’ll spoil the drama when the big antagonists pull out artha to juice a roll.


I forgot about this! I might try running a game where we lean into this.

This seems very reasonable, similar to spirit binding.

Yeah this has been my general experience, having BITs makes more interesting NPCs, but giving them artha (or rather using it) almost never feels right.

Yeah, this way the players are aware of the NPC artha, and you can kinda build the threat / significance of the NPC.

This is a great suggestion, thank you. I think I’m going to start formalising this a bit more in my games. We’ve occasionally given NPCs the MVP/Workhorse awards, which has been the exception to the rule of NPC artha feeling unsatisfying. So I thinking working in a more formal ‘do you think any NPCs should get artha?’ during the artha awards might be the solution.

Thanks all this has been helpful.

A smaller follow up question would be any advice on when to spend this artha?

In my experience +1D from persona feels fine when it’s something the NPC cares about. I’ve had trouble with fate because more than one extra dice can feel like me pushing too hard for the NPCs victory. I think perhaps in a VS test I should roll for the NPC first, spend their fate, then let the PCs know the total of the roll before they gather their dice?

In one game we had a dwarven player who took a relationship with the dwarven king (his cousin), he needed to convince the king of something big so we had a duel of wits. The king was a major NPC so had artha. The problem was with a huge greed stat he could tap that greed and easily win, even by taking the max dice to only get a routine greed test. In the end I just used the persona as +1D. Though maybe I should have saved the persona for something the king cared more about / if he did care about the DoW just tapped greed as he should be hard to defeat in an argument.

In my current game anyone with a name (and therefore with a slot in my Mook Hoard) gets 1 fate, 1 persona. It’s probably overkill, but this is a rather gonzo D&D pastiche game, so it fits.

It has led to one silly moment where a newly minted NPC got an abysmal roll in a bad situation and my player and I paused for a beat. “. . . her name is Claire.” I said after a moment and promptly spent the fate to turn the roll around. It was funny!

I really like your suggestions, @Thor! I might try that style out for my home game once we finish up with Miseries & Misfortunes.

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