Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?



  • So, a staffer playing an NPC versus a staffer playing a PC.

    Is there really a difference?

    Can an NPC without extensive documentation exist?

    When does an NPC become a Staff PC?

    Fight.


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    So, a staffer playing an NPC versus a staffer playing a PC.
    Is there really a difference?

    Yes. I play NPCs all the time. I also play PCs all the time. There's definitely a big difference. NPCs typically have access to abilities or information that PCs don't, may have a network of NPCs that support them, and thus have an unfair advantage over PCs.

    They're written for a specific niche (e.g., mafia boss, important Lord, librarian with info to disseminate). Almost all the ones I've ever played have had multiple drivers, with different staff members inhabiting them in order to keep story moving along. Even the ones where I solely play them still aren't mine. They belong to the game.

    Can an NPC without extensive documentation exist?

    I don't quite get this question. NPCs exist all over. They people our pretend worlds. Clarify? :)

    When does an NPC become a Staff PC?

    When that character is being used for ends other than plot.

    Personally, I feel incredibly uncomfortable with staffers playing important NPCs that have non-plot RP with PCs. I get that sometimes an NPC may have a relationship with a PC, but there's a line: it's one thing for your NPC King to have a scene with his PC brother about the future of the crown; it's another thing entirely for that NPC King to be out trolling for sex from chamber maids.

    All that said, if staff wants to create PCs that are openly played as PCs, I'm all for this. I just feel like the argument "oh, Bob has Badassery-10 even though PCs are capped at 8 because he's an NPC" loses its credibility when Bob is on-camera every day, dropped into non-plot scenes, RPing nothing to do with Badassery.



  • Depends entirely on the game and its various structures (policy, setting, RPG system).

    I can only speak for HMu at the moment. I'm wiki staff, but have pitched in with some other things in the past.

    1. We don't get much more information as non-headstaff about the story than the players do. Many things are brainstormed openly in the OOC room in front of anyone present, with players contributing ideas as the conversation goes along. (Have indeed seen instances of player input from these random conversations being used, too! Which is awesome.) Chat on staff channel re: story is notably rare, and is often the same things that are mentioned in public areas. (We don't seem to need the channel often at all, truth be told.)

    2. Players are all allowed one or more NPCs, statted, per story (thus far; it's possible that we may do something without any at some point, most stories have allowed three) free and default. Every player gets the same options here.

    These two elements are not things I'd consider typical of other games I've staffed on over the years, in whatever capacity I've been working. (I've done everything from building to job-monkeying to headwizzing to just wiki to TL stuff, etc. over the ages.)

    'Staff NPCs' are typically run by the headwiz only; there's only one case I can think of in which another staffer ran a scene with one to help out with workload, and the rundown of the scene and how it should play out was laid out in general terms for them. These NPCs are either monsters to smite (or run away screaming from), or quest vendor/info dispenser authority figures. They aren't 'my pet NPC', which is great.

    The only issue we've really had is that with so many NPCs, we have to keep an eye on what people are making with them to avoid taking roles or positions that players would want to occupy, and this is thankfully rare. Usually, all it takes is a reminder that they are meant to be support characters, and not 'the bestest <jerbtitle> ever', etc. as the more high-profile slots should be offered first to the PCs in play.

    Is this a great model? Yes, with the current staff and current playerbase -- which is yet another variable to be considered.

    If people weren't reasonable, weren't generally on good terms with one another, and didn't care about the well-being of the game or the fun of others, this would not work. But, then, if and when you have those things, most things will likely work out just fine.



  • @krmbm said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    Can an NPC without extensive documentation exist?

    I don't quite get this question. NPCs exist all over. They people our pretend worlds. Clarify? :)

    It was something @Sparks said in another thread, about how staff can't just create NPCs because they're documented things.

    This got me thinking.

    When does an NPC become a Staff PC?

    When that character is being used for ends other than plot.

    Must an NPC only be used for plot?


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain I dunno if 'plot' is the right word, but to me, NPC's are the actors that fill the world, the people that maintain the status quo, the villains, the leaders of orders and other things that are required to give the setting life.,

    A Staff PC is just a fucking PC because staff are people too and deserve to play and have their own damned fun non stressed non staff time. :P
    (sometimes with caveats that they don't engage in sphere plots or have spotlights/roles in things that they preside over as staff)


  • Pitcrew

    Why cant you "just create" an NPC? It is character generation. You run them through CGen. Slap a BG on them and bam, you have an NPC.

    Anyway, basic difference IMO is that an NPC is meant to be a story device. NPCs are there to move plot. They are the "quest givers" basically. They shouldn't be regularly played and they should be played ultimately to support PCs.

    What drives me crazy is when a staff has an NPC but that they use to be the star of a plot. No. Stop that. That is for PCs. If you want to be the star of your show, make a PC.


  • Pitcrew

    @bear_necessities said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    What drives me crazy is when a staff has an NPC but that they use to be the star of a plot. No. Stop that. That is for PCs. If you want to be the star of your show, make a PC.

    Addendum: ALSO PLEASE STOP TSING PEOPLE WITH YOUR NPC'S AUGH


  • Pitcrew

    @Wretched said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    Addendum: ALSO PLEASE STOP TSING PEOPLE WITH YOUR NPC'S AUGH

    This.

    THIS.

    A thousand times, THIS.


  • Pitcrew

    @Wretched said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    @bear_necessities said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    What drives me crazy is when a staff has an NPC but that they use to be the star of a plot. No. Stop that. That is for PCs. If you want to be the star of your show, make a PC.

    Addendum: ALSO PLEASE STOP TSING PEOPLE WITH YOUR NPC'S AUGH

    Say it once more WITH FEELING!!!!


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    So, a staffer playing an NPC versus a staffer playing a PC.

    Is there really a difference?

    Can an NPC without extensive documentation exist?

    When does an NPC become a Staff PC?

    Fight.

    I understand why you're asking, and I think most of us have seen instances where these things were unethically used, but if I'm honest this line of thinking still makes me a little bit nervous, for all of the reasons @Wretched mentioned. When people create a game, pouring their time and energy into a setting that excites them, nine times out of ten they're creating the place they want to play in because it doesn't yet exist. If you're like me, you're already hyper-aware that there are limits being put on what you can do with your PCs in order to stave off player perception of taking liberties. (This is true of anywhere that you're intensively storytelling, too -- the juiciest plot bits are probably getting dispensed to other people.)

    You're already sort of in the crappy position of finally having the game you want to play on, but at the high cost of spending a significant chunk of your time doing things that aren't RP (and are often frustrating), and when you do RP, you're more limited than you would be as a regular ol' player.

    I use NPCs as a player storyteller and as staff. They work the same way in both cases. I make them up on the spot all the time. They're Supporting Cast. Sometimes they become important to a plot, emotionally or otherwise, but their fates are governed by the actions of actual players. That's a subservience of purpose I would never want to feel my own PCs are beholden to.



  • I think it's an arbitrary distinction because the phrase "NPC" is kind of goofy, inconsistently used, and unclear when you're talking about MUSHes.

    In a TTRPG there's a clear definition. There are players and there's a singular GM. PCs are characters controlled by the players, and NPCs are characters controlled by the singular GM. Even if your GM is running a pet NPC kinda like a PC (we've probably all seen that at some point), he's still an NPC by the very definition of the rules.

    But on a MUSH, you now have a whole bunch of GMs. And when they're not GM-ing, they're often engaging with the game like a regular player would. The original definition just doesn't fit any more.

    Then we have the character-bit angle. Some games use "PC" to refer to anybody with an @name-d character object, and "NPC" to refer to "extras" who are just emitted or entered into a combat system.

    Despite all that, I still use the term NPC myself, but I wish we had a better one. Personally I use NPC for "recurring guest-star" type characters who are in the world but not part of the main cast, as it were.



  • @faraday said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    I think it's an arbitrary distinction because the phrase "NPC" is kind of goofy, inconsistently used, and unclear when you're talking about MUSHes.

    jazz hands
    Tahdah!


  • Tutorialist

    @bear_necessities said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    Anyway, basic difference IMO is that an NPC is meant to be a story device. NPCs are there to move plot. They are the "quest givers" basically. They shouldn't be regularly played and they should be played ultimately to support PCs.

    Yes, that's one of their purposes.

    The other purpose (although it's been largely neglected in the games I've been on for some time) is to be used as tools for staff to help keep things on track. NPCs usually hold positions of relative importance or have a desirable skillset, so they can be used to steer things back on track when players are starting to veer too far off course. Yes, they can support PCs, but they're also a wall that the PCs have to face off against if they want to transgress outside of the established boundaries (for example, a King who has the power to issue investigations, levy sanctions, etc).

    THis isn't a popular view of NPCs, by any means, especially among players, but that's one of their realities -- they exist as a foil to the PCs so that they can't just go hog wild and do something goofy.

    They are there to provide direction and consistency as much as they are to provide support. Sometimes they're a shield, sometimes they're a sounding board. Sometimes they're a hammer. At the end of the day, what they are, without a doubt, are tools that staff use to tell the story they want.


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain npc implies some purpose of plot or in game IC direction/supervision/touchstone utilized by staff.

    A PC could be anything. Maybe they'll be great at handing out/disseminating plot, or maybe they will just sit in their ic apartment with their thumb up their ass while they brag about their stats or overshare about their RL on chan, but the choice is theirs.



  • @mietze said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    @Thenomain npc implies some purpose of plot or in game IC direction/supervision/touchstone utilized by staff.

    Does it?

    If you throw a bottle in a bar and someone—staff or not—poses someone getting hit, does that serve IC direction? Is, then, any aspect of the game setting "serving IC direction"?

    To me, in Mush context, an NPC is part of the environment. Sometimes it's a tree, standing there looking pretty. Sometimes it's a bolt of lighting, and my character is holding a golf club to the heavens daring god to do something about it.

    To me, in Mush context, anyone can work with an NPC to a limitation of reasonableness as much as a player can to any other part of the environment.


  • Pitcrew

    I think if a game makes a distinction between NPCs and PCs, there shouldn't be a muddied difference or inconsistency in the use.

    Use your NPCs to create story that PCs can star in. Use your PCs to TS until your hearts content and have romantical relationships between other PCs. Once you use your NPC for that, you create a game culture that is weird and uncomfortable.



  • @Thenomain said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    an NPC is part of the environment.

    I like that definition from a MUSH context. A staffer should have no more investment in an NPC than they do in the sandstorm they just threw at the players. They might think it's neat, but it's part of the world and not their own personal viewpoint character for interacting with said world (which is more what a PC is all about).

    I think the main concern isn't really the nomenclature, but the troubling behaviors that result. Like when a staffer is clearly playing a character like a PC, but is doing so in some shady manner under the guise of "but it's just a staff NPC". Whatever you call it, shady is shady.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    I think the main concern isn't really the nomenclature, but the troubling behaviors that result. Like when a staffer is clearly playing a character like a PC, but is doing so in some shady manner under the guise of "but it's just a staff NPC". Whatever you call it, shady is shady.

    Bingo.

    If I decide that my character has a tommy-gun after telling the entire game that PCs can't have tommy-guns, I just broke my own rules.

    If I decide to play the NPC that has a tommy-gun after telling the entire game that PCs can't have tommy-guns because I'm furthering a story about how and why tommy-guns are super dangerous, I'm still within my own rules.

    If I'm now playing that tommy-gun wielder in random scenes just 'cause I think it's fun and he's my new favorite character and his tommy-gun gets me all the TS, I'm a cheater hiding behind the "he's just an NPC" lie so I can get my rocks off.



  • @faraday said in Difference between an NPC and a Staff PC?:

    I think the main concern isn't really the nomenclature, but the troubling behaviors that result. Like when a staffer is clearly playing a character like a PC, but is doing so in some shady manner under the guise of "but it's just a staff NPC". Whatever you call it, shady is shady.

    I completely agree with you and @mietze and @Wretched and everyone else that using an NPC like a PC is a problem.

    But what does that mean, "like a PC"?

    I kind of like what @bear_necessities did there, but as they and you and other say, the nomenclature is all fubar.

    I like the idea that if someone is doing something with a non-PC, it should—must?—serve the game in some way, either to build atmosphere, be a living part of the setting, engage in plot, or whatever.

    That is, staff should probably always be thinking: If it doesn't serve the game, it shouldn't be done.

    And yes, hanging out on the river and encountering a Hedge Shark that suddenly bursts out of the water sending everyone screaming like excited school girls counts as "for the game". Well it was for ours. It was awesome.

    I know this sounds like what other people have already said (tl;dr: I agree), but I think what is stated about NPCs should be considered a truism of everything on the game, not just NPCs and not just staff. Players, too, when engaging with the environment should take into consideration that the more people it affects the more they're taking staff-like actions.

    That's one of the muddy things about Mu*s; players get a small token of staffliness too.


  • Pitcrew

    A PC pursues plot like a player. A PC may sign up for, participate in, even make bold moves and be the star of a particular plot.

    An NPC is there to further the story, or enhance the world, or hold a position that is important but not appropriate for a player. An NPC may not sign up for a PRP and discover the solution or defeat the bad guy or do something else that takes spotlight a player could have away from players.

    Bingo bango.


Log in to reply