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  • Handling signature NPCs in the new game

    So, I really really love the Aeon series of games. Just think they are the bee's knees. With that in mind, I do have one small complaint about the series...there were way, way too many pregenerated NPCs to keep track of. Like, a silly amount. Aberrant was especially bad about it. You could not possibly keep track of who all these people are, and what they are doing. It's all too much. It also really stepped on the toes of Storyteller and player creativity alike.

    So as far as NPC detailing goes in the new game, I think it might be best if we left a few more things unstated - a few more open slots for players and Storytellers if you will. Maybe I have a really nifty idea for a member of Divis Mal's inner circle for instance. If all of those positions are already filled by sig NPCs it seems awkward inserting your own characters. I think the best approach might be to have a few stated - Scripture, Orzaiz" and then have a few unstated spots that are explicitly Your Character Here. Other factions could work similarly.

    Big names, like the proxies, Mercer, Divis Mal, and the like could stay in place - although the general agreement seems to be best to give them vague stats - but do we really need multiple teams statted out? Like, the Chief Financial Officert under Anna Devries needs to be named and statted? Couldn't we come up with that on our own? Maybe even the Aeon Society for Gentlemen (and Hardcore Lady Types) might have a few more "floating positions" so new members can come and go, similar to say the Justice League.

    What do you think? Who should go, who do we keep, what's important, and what works best?

  • #2
    I think three things really drove this...
    1) Metaplot - got to have lots of characters to move those forward, and some of that should be paired down since metaplot seems a lot less important
    2) Setting size - multiple solar systems, planets, organizations, ect over three time periods with some crossover - not sure this can be avoided
    3) Artifacts - using in world artifacts (emails, news, interviews) to present the setting inherently requires the creations of a stadium full of characters

    Of the three I find the metaplot the most annoying because metaplots are inherently about someone else story and not my groups story. They are needed to a certain degree to create a living world, especially one set in an information rich setting like a modern/future world, but I prefer them to set the zeitgeist of the age and not be something that is supposed to be something players participate in. (Having said that, please still have Divis Mal completely own Ceastus Pax in a battle royal - Pax is there to be a dick and everyone loves to see a dick get slapped down every once in a while - its entertaining)

    As far as filling the world due to setting size, I have no problem with that. If I can't keep track of it, then what ever my group comes up with at the table is what is "real" for our world, and if I don't like something, I change it anyways. Although to be clear, I usually change things to emphasize the tone and themes of the stories my group is telling, not just because I don't like the world building.

    If artifacts are a primary source of presenting the Trinity Continuum then npc bloom is pretty unavoidable since you need them to create all the artifacts, but again, since I reserve the right to jettison anything I don't care for its really a non issue for me.

    As an example, I really don't see the need for paramorphs in my games - they were never well defined enough to matter, so as far as i was concerned you had the quantum/psi divide and that was it. I didn't think there was enough thematic value with a third power group just to maintain the 3 Eras 3 Powers Three Three Three theme.

    Likewise, If the new setting doesn't ditch the nova sterilization conspiracy, I will - I think you can explain all the breeding problems with the Terat belief that novas are really a new breed of humanity, and each one of them is evolving themselves along their own path. Pretty simple solution to massive fertility problems in novas without mustache twirling villains committing genocide on the nova populations through secret birth control.

    I'm, the same way with NPCs, If they don't serve my purpose they are jettisoned or replaced. If you need to keep with canon to a degree, sudden NPC death can always allow your own NPC or a PC to slide into available slots.

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    • #3
      It's an RPG. You can argue that having too many canonical NPCs creates a barrier to creating things at indvidual tables, but this barrier is entirely illusory for the same reason that explicit [Your Character Here] labels serve no purpose at all. Viz, the official material is just inspirational material which you use if you like it, and discard if it's in the way of something that suits your game better. (Or just if it doesn't interest you.) Be bold, make the setting suit your game, like ckobbe says.

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      • #4
        Depends - it kind of bothered me somewhat with oWoD and its metaplot, but in the case of Aberrant, where the actual details of the timeline or how did things actually get there are quite loose, not to say purposefuly vague and obfuscated, much less so. It's a big world, there's almost half a century between "present" and the Aberrant War (if it even happens in one's timeline - once played a chronicle where the 'War turned upon its head and governments and public stood by the Novas' side in the Psychic Wars against the uplifted Psion puppets of infiltrating alien invaders, for an example, Nova craziness being blamed on alien interference), so as a ST you have room aplenty to do away with any NPC you dislike or don't care much for.

        NPCs are only as relevant as one cares to make them be - they can get busy with their own business, problems, sidestories & etc offscreen and out of one's own story arcs, that are what really matters. Not to mention that inconvenient canon NPCs can make for great footstools to prop up one's own favorites and creations, among other options. Use & abuse them and have fun with the mayhem of betraying, cloning, hijacking, drugging, killing or whatever any one NPC you that picks your fancy or disaproval.

        One of the most engrossing - and macabre - arcs i ever did for Aberrant involved a secret illicit game of seduction and betrayals going on between Cestus Pax and Narcosis that would end in the betrayal of a third of Terat leadership to the authorities, Cestus Pax's assassination in bed, a black market auction for the singularly high-grade Soma of Pax's M-R Node and Narcosis on the run from both Utopia and the Teras and joining the coup to take over Ukraine (from Worldwide) for allies. No one is sacred, anyone can die.
        Last edited by Baaldam; 12-12-2015, 09:05 AM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Schleiermacher View Post
          It's an RPG. You can argue that having too many canonical NPCs creates a barrier to creating things at individual tables, but this barrier is entirely illusory for the same reason that explicit [Your Character Here] labels serve no purpose at all. Viz, the official material is just inspirational material which you use if you like it, and discard if it's in the way of something that suits your game better. (Or just if it doesn't interest you.) Be bold, make the setting suit your game, like ckobbe says.
          I would say too many canonical NPCs wastes valuable page space, which could be used for something more worthwhile - perhaps clarification on more obscure points for starters. As far as inspirational materials go, this is great if they are genuinely inspirational - but too many aren't. Many are very cut and dried concepts that most players would figure out on there own, and introducing them steps on player toes.

          The purpose of an explicit label is because clear communication helps the readers understand intent instead of inferring it. Without that statement, readers have no idea if a given passage is meant purely to be a story hook, an area that will be explored in greater detail in the future, or a third option altogether. Clear communication solves so many problems between the authors and the fanbase that it is always in the best interests of both.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Wolfgar View Post

            I would say too many canonical NPCs wastes valuable page space, which could be used for something more worthwhile - perhaps clarification on more obscure points for starters. As far as inspirational materials go, this is great if they are genuinely inspirational - but too many aren't. Many are very cut and dried concepts that most players would figure out on there own, and introducing them steps on player toes.
            Wolfgar, your point sounds sensible, but then how does one define what is too much or not, or what kind of material is "genuinely" inspirational or not? That can be subjective like hell and completely subject to the reader. And about " concepts that most players would figure out on their own", what kind of stuff do you mean? Some stuff might be indeed intuitive, but some other might be much less so if one didn't read one book or other i guess. It would be a little easier to actually opine on that subject if you gave us an example or two of such "excess baggage", i think.

            And as i said before, uninteresting stuff a ST can cut away either off-screen, or possibly more entertainingly, as part of setting up one' own new stuff.

            Originally posted by Wolfgar View Post
            The purpose of an explicit label is because clear communication helps the readers understand intent instead of inferring it. Without that statement, readers have no idea if a given passage is meant purely to be a story hook, an area that will be explored in greater detail in the future, or a third option altogether.
            I can see your point here, but frankly, considering the usual gap of months or more that can go between books, utterly irrelevant for any one game group - except if a group's ST is a little obsessed with "following the plot" of ready-made stuff whole months if not years might go on before some piece of fluff get expanded, if ever. I could run a whole story arc, if not a whole chronicle in that period, before any fluff expansion or potential clash with evolving narrative/canon came up.

            If you are a ST everything is a plot hook, writer intent be damned. No book ever killed Cestus Pax, implicitly or explicitly, and it's a pretty good bet none in the upcoming edition ever will either, yet none of these things stopped me from giving him a pathetic end in a motel bed and making the matter of his assassination, disposal of his body by criminal parts & the ensuing backlash for Utopia, Teragen and media as a whole into the center of a major story arc and surprise turn in the PCs' advancement, for good or for ill.

            Crap NPCs i turn into fertilizer or man-eating mutant chitzus' chow, that simple. Damn, sometimes i will do worse with NPCs i actually enjoy too. Setting modules are not a novel series, you can consume them as that, but official continuity ultimately is secondary to what "the fanbase" actually does with their games. My own version of Aberrant's continuity owes more to Kirby's Eternals, Exalted, Grant Morisson's Zenith, and specially WW's Orpheus series than any threads relating to the Aberrant War or Trinity.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Wolfgar View Post

              I would say too many canonical NPCs wastes valuable page space, which could be used for something more worthwhile - perhaps clarification on more obscure points for starters. As far as inspirational materials go, this is great if they are genuinely inspirational - but too many aren't. Many are very cut and dried concepts that most players would figure out on there own, and introducing them steps on player toes.
              If we want to talk wastes of space, I have far more problem with the formatting, layout and graphics of the original line than the philosophy of their fluff text and use of NPCs for narrative world building. For me, saving space by getting rid of the TV screen shots, internet boarder menus, holographic heads, black or white dead spaces, and huge or busy boarder graphics is more important. I also know that Aberrant has its roots in the comic book medium, but I would also jettison the 4-6 page mini comics.

              Having said that, there are parts of the fluff that I would completely do away with (I'm looking at you Man on the Street wastes of space).

              Most of the above can be removed for (IMHO) a more efficient, streamlined product without degrading versatility. For me, NPCs will continue to be a "to taste" portion of any setting. Mileage will vary from person to person, group to group. I may jettison entire organizations personally, but I wouldn't want them removed from the books because others may find them useful/inspirational.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Baaldam View Post

                Wolfgar, your point sounds sensible, but then how does one define what is too much or not, or what kind of material is "genuinely" inspirational or not? That can be subjective like hell and completely subject to the reader. And about " concepts that most players would figure out on their own", what kind of stuff do you mean? Some stuff might be indeed intuitive, but some other might be much less so if one didn't read one book or other I guess. It would be a little easier to actually opine on that subject if you gave us an example or two of such "excess baggage", I think.
                Sure. Remember when I mention Anna Devries CFO? That's Bayo Owodunni. She's a baseline South African woman, who is happy with her job at Devries. That's it. She takes up a half a page, includes a portrait and a stat block - and serves no purpose whatsoever. She exists to exist and fill book space.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Wolfgar View Post
                  Sure. Remember when I mention Anna Devries CFO? That's Bayo Owodunni. She's a baseline South African woman, who is happy with her job at Devries. That's it. She takes up a half a page, includes a portrait and a stat block - and serves no purpose whatsoever. She exists to exist and fill book space.
                  To be a little more detailed, she's a baseline black South African woman who made herself rich through her successful decades long association with DeVries, father and daughter both, and their most morally questionable line of business, from Apartheid times even. That in itself can make her notable - and respected, resented or both - by a number of people from different groups high & low in south african society. She's also the one person beside Frank Carrington who has been in the business since Ana's father, possibly knowing a number of buried skeletons not even the boss knows, not to mention the administrative lynchpin of the agency as the one person capable of matching, if not surpass, Ana DeVries herself in that arena. While understated, in her secretarial and motherly roles of an agency of super-powered specialists & killers, as a character she comes across as something between Amanda Waller and Winnie Mandela and might be satisfied with her work because she sees the Agency as the fruit of her labors and child as much as Ana's.

                  Also, interesting minor linguistic aside - her name and surname are all-around Yoruba, a pretty large ethnic group that does not exist in South Africa, but are very populous indeed in countries from West Africa, Benin and Nigeria, what at least in part explains very neatly how a "woman of color" might have ended working with Papa Devries' Apartheid era work, she didn't see herself as part of the local oppressed people. In fact in a most curious real life coincidence, a quick Google search can show some pretty successful people of the same surname originated from that country. what can be even more relevant as plot fodder in a game, as Aberrant's Nigeria is basically african Latveria.

                  The last part about her name and family's ethnic roots i do recognize comes totally out of the left field and i'm the first to admit, might be much harder to catch on back in the turn of the century when the book came out (if even possible), but the first paragraph i just took from re-reading the write-up. So yeah, while i can understand your point and how one might look at the write-up and see her as pointless, but i hope this also serves to show a little how different people can interpret in different ways the same text fragment.
                  Last edited by Baaldam; 12-14-2015, 11:43 AM.

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                  • #10
                    As an aside, it's exactly for this reason i like to get someone else to "take turns" with me on STing duties sometimes. For the different point-of-views and observations on the setting, NPCs and other things - and the kind of stories we might cook up from blending and mashing up our differing views and interests into a somewhat coherent whole, shaping up things neither of us might have though otherwise along the way.

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                    • #11
                      I'm somewhere in the middle on this.

                      I don't mind seeing some NPC's fleshed out with some background / description fluff as it saves me doing it. So yeah, outlines of interesting NPCs & the major players is useful to a point as it can help me fill in gaps when I don't have much prep time or creative brain juice. But, I definitely draw the line at getting mechanics for those and some mid-level types. I prefer to see major players that PCs could feasibly meet, say the Proxies or their inner circles, as entirely un-statted. Some things just don't need stats. But yep, giving some descriptions of some key and mid level people to save me having to come up with it all is definitely a helpful time saver. Even the mid level admin bod, I'll probably find a use for them.

                      The 'biggest bads' though such as Divis Mal, the Colony and so on - I never use 'em anyway (god-types bore the ever loving whassit out of me).....so I don't really have a specific opinion either way on getting those statted as I wouldn't even bring them into games.

                      Having said all that getting various template blocks I can easily re-use, like 'security bod' or 'Chromatic warrior' and so on are useful to me if they can be applied quickly with minimal modifications irrespective of the background of the NPC I'm playing. So keep giving me those please


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CHILL View Post
                        I'm somewhere in the middle on this.

                        I don't mind seeing some NPC's fleshed out with some background / description fluff as it saves me doing it. So yeah, outlines of interesting NPCs & the major players is useful to a point as it can help me fill in gaps when I don't have much prep time or creative brain juice. But, I definitely draw the line at getting mechanics for those and some mid-level types. I prefer to see major players that PCs could feasibly meet, say the Proxies or their inner circles, as entirely un-statted. Some things just don't need stats. But yep, giving some descriptions of some key and mid level people to save me having to come up with it all is definitely a helpful time saver. Even the mid level admin bod, I'll probably find a use for them.
                        I'm of two minds on this. As you said, many times such stats might be irrelevant to their use as a proxy of some other major setting NPC. But sometimes their stats can actually inform additional details, contradictions or possibilities about the NPC that go beyond its "proxy" role and maybe offer unexpected ways for a ST to use the NPC, as either "the proxy" or standing on its own.

                        Originally posted by CHILL View Post
                        The 'biggest bads' though such as Divis Mal, the Colony and so on - I never use 'em anyway (god-types bore the ever loving whassit out of me).....so I don't really have a specific opinion either way on getting those statted as I wouldn't even bring them into games.

                        Having said all that getting various template blocks I can easily re-use, like 'security bod' or 'Chromatic warrior' and so on are useful to me if they can be applied quickly with minimal modifications irrespective of the background of the NPC I'm playing. So keep giving me those please
                        Well, as one who has used antediluvians openly in a Masquerade - in fact, the whole point of that one particular game was the antediluvians as visible and somewhat acessible god-types and the utterly upheaval of kindred status quo resulting from just their presence and general hysteria while the ancients themselves did almost nothing - i can't say we see eye to eye on this.

                        I tend more towards "nothing is sacred" when it comes to NPCs and so will use, kill or put them on a bus and forget as the mood strikes me. Also Divis Mal & Cestus Pax while impressive indeed are far less of unreachable pillars of superhuman might in relation to a group of PCs than a bunch of major signature characters in WoD, for example. In fact i have seen Pax thoroughfully curbstomped once because i made the mistake of understimating the efficiency and sheer destructive power of a PC's more specialized combat built. And i mean it in a positive light, the player was no min-maxer, had no fives and was as surprised at the results of "going all out" as everybody else.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Baaldam View Post

                          Well, as one who has used antediluvians openly in a Masquerade - in fact, the whole point of that one particular game was the antediluvians as visible and somewhat acessible god-types and the utterly upheaval of kindred status quo resulting from just their presence and general hysteria while the ancients themselves did almost nothing - i can't say we see eye to eye on this.
                          Heh, yeah probably. Its worth noting that while I find some stat blocks on NPCs useful from time to time, especially when I need a quick point of reference because its been a long day or something, I find I often ignore NPC stats. I mostly make it up on the fly for things like combat when GMing anyway. Sure, I'll lazily throw a couple dice behind a screen or something if I remember too (so as not to terrify the newbies), but broadly speaking I just go with what feels right in the combat from a story perspective. Sometime's I'll play it a little more by the book, but I guess around 80% of the time I barely look at any stats. I don't use this as an opportunity to 'cheat' because I want NPC's to win or something, I actually like seeing the PC's 'win', I just don't find NPC stats all that interesting as a GM. Yes, this is one approach for the GM and a different approach for players (who are usually more focussed on stats for their characters than I am for stats for my NPCs). And I'm perfectly fine with that disparity - its served me well for a long time.

                          Interestingly though, you mentioning that vampire game. Sometime back in the late 90s I ran a vamp game aimed to finish up my various VtM campaigns. It was a spin on Gehenna and was a 16 hour one-shot that included a cast of antediluvians (posthumously titled 'EndGame' as I stopped running WoD too from that point). Even then, I didn't need or want published stats for antediluvians. I'll use and abuse such NPCs as you do, but I don't need or want any stats for any of that. But I'm less likely to even bring those big names into a game in the first place these days


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