Powergaming and huge NPCs

From: martin (102541.3423@CompuServe.COM)
Date: Wed 08 May 1996 - 20:15:02 EEST

Lewis Jardine:
>One of the false David's states that Onslaught is an example of
>a powergamer as he is largely a collection of magic items. Individually
>these are reasonable enough, but as they have little context they do not
>serve to enhance *The Character*. However, combined, they serve to make
>Onslaught (the collection of stats) much harder to kill.
> This is exactly the same sort of effect that drove me to give
>up AD&D TM etc. Characters in AD&D are largely defined by their magic
>items and to a slightly lesser degree by their class and level. In my
>mind these are not *Characters* they are merely constructs...

In PCs I would agree with this but taking the Onslaught NPC as an example, his
stats are really irrelevant and the players in my campaign know them not. So
what if Onslaught is harder to kill? If I hadn't written out the stats, I'd
have made them up on the spot and he'd be _just_ as hard to kill because thats
what the character is like. Is it necessary to know Harreks sword attack
percentage to know he's going to hack the player in half? It would be
_interesting_ to know but in reality, unecessary.

In an NPC the personality is all important.

>So now I have confessed my sins, I'll get back to the point. Role
>playing is about *Characters* and not unkillable constructs. So I'd
>like to see Onslaught returned to being a character with Deville.
>Lets forget his stats (Yes, lets!) and wait for some more Deville...

Agreed. Onslaughts appearances in the Deville stories are much more like his
appearances in my campaign but as you don't play in it, the Deville stuff is as
close as you can get to the "real" Onslaught.

On Nick Brooke:
> I know Nick Brooke and he is quite happy insulting people to
>their face. I know it is difficult for you as you have never met him,
>but normally he also has a really big "I'm not serious" grin to go with it.

Ah, thats different but E-mail has no body language to mitigate insult so
although in reality I like to take the piss, I do it in a jocular way in person.
On the internet you can't so I don't unless its so _obviously_ daffy as to be
inoffensive. I think what you mean is that Nick "takes the piss" to their
face but _insulting_ is another matter. Where I'm from (Sunderland in Northern
Enlgand) a guy does that to you and he loses most of his teeth.

Ian Gorlick on me:
Martin Laurie:
> I find that they [powerful NPCs] ... are useful duex ex machina at times.

>Which is part of why I don't like them. Deus ex machina (when the protagonists
>are rescued by forces from completely outside the narrative) is a crutch for
>poor plotting. If you allow yourself to use it, then you tempt yourself to be
>sloppy when you create your scenarios. I won't accept it in any fiction I read,

>therefore I won't tolerate using it in my scenarios.

Weeelll.... yes! Perhaps I overstated his effect. The only thing Onslaught
ever saved the PCs from was a lack of humour in a situation. He has never saved
them nor will he do so without it being heavily related to the plot (ie to give
the players an obligation) but this is unlikely as they would pretty much do
what he asked anyway (yes, including manning the fortress that must not fall).

I like to think of powerful NPCs as the verbal equivalent to a particularily
impressive landmark. In roleplating its often hard to visualise even with
considerable description but a few words in a certain tone from an NPC can
reveal worlds of info to the players and thats my favourite medium for imparting
information on the world to them. Frex, many first time players are lost in
the complexity of Gloranthan religion and belief but if you have a powerful
rolemodel NPC kicking about who corrects them then the process is made much
easier. Its a hell of a lot better than the GM saying. "No, Humakti behave
like _this_!" or whatever.

Anyway, with the Onslaught discussion drawing to a close I thought I'd put in a
few things it made me think about and explore just to show it wasn't all

(1). The connection with Death, what effects does an avatar of this power have
on his surroundings? (Very important this one)

(2). What is the social impact of such a person and how do they fit in with the
Humakt and social heirarchy? (This seems to me to be the most tricky one to

(3). What powers other than those related to combat does a minor hero of Death
have access too? Eg can the cause a field of Death around themselves that
causes seperation?

(4). Is Death really the opposite of fertility for without Death would their be
room and materials for new growth? I think that pre-death fertility was
_different_ to current fertility. Any ideas anyone?

(5). Humakts character. What does the God really want, is he a force that is
given a form by the perceptions of his worshippers? This one applies to most
other gods too.

(6). Is Humakt a broad church with many different views within a borad framework
or a monolith of rigid ideals of behaviour? I prefer the former though some

seem to prefer the latter.

(7). Is a Dwarfen construct capable of acting human enough to be Onslaught and
if so what is his purpose and what happened to his memory? Implants like in
Total Recall? I'm seriously tempted to try this one out on my players some
time, I have done something similar with God Learner Knowledgists. Good idea
whoever mentioned it first!

Martin Laurie


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