Every now and then I try to make an NPC stand out from the rest. Especially when there is likely going to be a lot. Sometimes you can go with the Monster Set strategy or maybe lean into more monster mechanics. But sometimes, you just want a little mini-player. That’s what Captain Ronson was in the Tenson Heist game. Captain of Security and designed to be the big hitter. Except… the dice weren’t on his side. But that’s another story.
Turning an NPC into a mini-player is as simple as taking the options that are available to the players and giving them to the NPC. Abilities, loot, and spells are all options and they pack a punch. Players familiar with the system often immediately recognize the power and there’s a moment of dread.
“What, he has Pit Fighter? Oh crap! Don’t let him hit you!”
But what to give them? Where is the line between just another NPC and a full-player character? In my opinion, that line is three. Essentially, I consider this stand-out NPC to have three “slots” and I can fill them with any combination of the following:
- Extra Action
In the case of Captain Ronson, I gave him two player abilities and a piece of loot from the basic equipment. I wanted him to hit hard if the players got in a scrap with him. I’d also hoped that his Warhammer would knock some defense off my players who were all averaging 15+ DEF. Oof!
That was only one combination though. I could have swapped out Power Strike for a tag like DEADLY DEFENSE: Deal BASIC when being attacked. Maybe a second action would have helped or an alternate piece of loot like a Heavy Crossbow.
+3 All Rolls
Slot 1 (Ability) Pit Fighter: Add damage from the last hit taken to the next hit given
Slot 2 (Ability) Power Strike: With a successful, modified 15+ deal max EFFORT
Slot 3 (Loot) Warhammer: Reduce target DEF by 1 if dealing 5-10 damage. 10+ damage stuns the target for 1 round.
I find that 3 simple additions to an NPC are the sweet spot to make them stand out without being overly complicated like a full boss enemy. Combine that with using player-specific mechanics and you suddenly have an infinite number of ways to customize. I didn’t want Captain Ronson to steal the show. Just add a touch of variety and narrative sense into the scene with 3 dozen generic soldiers and archers.