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Mythic-Based Charts for NPC reactions

Mythic player Mark Mintz has designed his own method for determining the reactions of NPCs during a solo RPG session using characteristic-based charts that track the likelihood of unique NPC responses to stimuli. This clever technique keeps NPC behavior consistent while still maintaining the potential of surprise for the solo player!

From Mark:
NPC Characteristics
This chart works with the odds as listed on the side of the Fate chart, assigning odds to characteristics which NPCs may have (or vice versa). 

There are two types of characteristics, major and minor. Major characteristics are those which might come more prominently into general play. They are more direct actions either for or against PCs. Minor characteristics are those that are more to flesh out the NPC, to put some meat on the bones, though they may come into play as well. Imagine the NPC with "whistles without provocation" as a "sure thing" in a situation where the party needs to be extremely quiet...

These are not meant as motivations for NPCs, but rather as traits or personality quirks. Responses to stimuli, not the reasoning behind them. With the above whistling example, why does the NPC whistle? Are they nervous? Are they really trying to alert the enemy? That is dependant on the situation, the characters, the interactions that have gone on previously and a number of other factors specific to the game being played. All this chart will tell you is that in any given situation, it's 90% likely that Bob will start whistling a tune.

Exceptional responses continue to apply, just as they do with any other fate chart question. Each characteristic test is of the form "Does X *characteristic*?" If yes, then they do. If no, then they don't. An exceptional result is just that, exceptional. It means that in this instance they will go above and beyond the normal reaction to the given situation. Given the whistling example above, if the question "does Bob whistle without provocation?" gets an exceptional yes answer, then perhaps Bob not only starts whistling, but he starts whistling the national anthem, a sure tip off to the enemy guards nearby!

More than one characteristic can share an odds level, if desired. Someone could easily have the traits of "finish what they start" and "anger easily" both as "likely". And just because a characteristic has an opposite not listed doesn't mean that it isn't there. "Acts conservatively" for example, could be "a sure thing" for Dick Cheney, or "No way!" for the random Anarchist. One characteristic on opposite ends of the spectrum.

There are two ways to use the chart to create characteristics for NPCs:
1 - roll 2d10/6/whatever of different colors, for each odds level. One die is major, the other minor. Whichever is higher, roll on that column and fill in a characteristic.
2 - for a given characteristic, ask "would this NPC ...?" and then set odds for it (i.e. "Would Al Capone take a hit without hitting back? Impossible." He might...but you'd need to roll very low for it to happen!) To randomly set odds, roll 2d6-1 and number up from "No Way" to "Has to be".

To use the characteristics as created by the chart, start with the most likely odds first and move backward through the list to find characteristics which apply to the situation at hand. Multiple characteristics may apply to a given situation, but be reasonable in which ones you apply. No one does everything at once. At the same time, however, people are often contradictory without even realizing it.

For example:
A group of cowboys (the PCs) comes into the saloon late one evening, with a tale of ghostly gunslingers out on the plains. A Gambler, who is a major NPC for the game stands against the bar. He's Likely to be Superstitious, but Very unlikely to believe the unbelievable. Rolling for both, the first is a ‘no’, while the second is a ‘yes’. "I don't believe a word of it," drawls the Gambler, all the while tossing his "lucky dollar" in air with one hand. The other way to use the characteristics is to use a specific test against a specific situation. Pulling on the NPC's arm to get him to flee while a monster chews on an ally would ask for a test against the NPC's "Bail on a friend" characteristic. Roll a "yes", and he'll turn tail and leave with the rest of the party. Roll an "exceptional no" and he's liable to try and drag a PC back with him to help!

As with anything else in Mythic, however, remember the "if it doesn't work, ditch it" rule. If it makes no sense for the gangster to start worrying about the bunnies, then don't use it. If you think the nurse really wouldn’t go about armed, then drop that result and re-roll or just ignore it. You don't need to be a slave to the table; it's meant to help not, to constrain.

Odds and the Chaos Factor
As the chaos factor increases, indicating events spiraling out of control or moving into the realm of the climax of the story, then too the activity of the NPCs based on odds and their characteristics also changes. You can use the knowledge of the character as given by the odds, to decide on their actions in a given situation.

For example:
If an NPC has "likely" odds to "go about armed", then with the chaos factor set at 5, they're 75% likely to have a weapon on them. Once chaos raises to 9 however, that number increases to 100%. So if you're waiting to test until then, you know for a fact that they've got a gun. If you've tested earlier, however, and they don't have a gun, then you can be fairly certain that the character will be looking to find one to put themselves at ease.

Remember too, that retesting is entirely possible, and also suggested! If the "goes about armed" character has been off-screen for a time and returns, it makes sense to check again to see if they're armed now, provided that they had the opportunity to get (or leave) a weapon.

It is also possible to apply modifiers to any given set of odds based on circumstance. If the whistler from the very first example has had it impressed upon them that they must be silent or risk sudden death, that might give a -1 or 2 (or more depending) row shift for odds. In this case it would mean that "sure thing" drops to "very likely". Likewise, an NPC who has "do the honourable thing" as "likely" might get a shift up if, for example, an innocent were endangered and they could respond in the appropriate "honourable" way.

The Charts and Conversation
One of the most difficult things in Mythic is to be able to have a discussion with an NPC who’s being run by a series of charts. There are some characteristics that help to address this, such as “resists gloating” or “is argumentative”. But you can also add some others to help get some meaningful results out of “random” discussions with NPCs.

Very rarely do PCs engage NPCs on trivial discussion points. PCs don’t talk to NPCs about the weather, or the mileage of their Toyota unless it has direct bearing on the story and the task at hand. Usually NPC discussion revolves around questions, answers and information. “Who came through here yesterday?” “What do you know about the Ruby of Fire?” “Who do you work for?” While the answers to these questions can’t be given in a table, the demeanor and willingness to speak and the memory powers of the NPC can be. In the same way as the major and minor characteristics, so too can there be conversational characteristics. These characteristics are modified by situation and relationship with the asking characters, meaning that row shifts on the odds table becomes very important. Where the lady in the bank may be “unlikely” to be forthcoming with the skinny catwalk model, she might become quite “likely” to spill it all to the well built fireman.

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