I was asked over on Twitter by Katrina Ostrander yesterday if I had any tips for building NPC’s in Lords of Gossamer and Shadow (LoGaS). I directed her to this search which takes you to all the LoGaS material that I have done including 30 NPC’s that I made around the time that LoGaS launched last year. I woke up and had a bit of a bout of conscience about that and decided to look at the rule book when I got up for the advice that they give.
In a word, the advice there is fairly limited so in the words of that wonderful movie Robots;
See a need, fill a need!
The rule book essentially has a couple of paragraphs telling you that the LoGaS game is one that should be alive with NPC’s. It states that the selection of Lords and Ladies of Gossamer in a later chapter are just a small percentage of what is likely to be encountered in a single adventure, and I grant that this is sage advice. Mind you, there is little there of substance to help guide you to making your own. Just as an aside though there are now supplements like LoGaS: Gossamer Heroes which you can pick up and use for NPC’s.
So I am going to offer up some advice here about how I go about making my NPC’s for this awesome game. The first piece of advice is that a lot of the minor NPC’s like in many games do not need any sort of statting up. What they need is a name and an attitude or hook. Add in a little quirk so they can become memorable to the players, write these three things in your notes and voila! New NPC.
For example, the players have just fled the scene of a Gossamer World (aptly named Oraurus filled with intelligent dinosaurs) that had a comet diverted to strike the planet by the Dwimmerlaik. It was one of the player’s domains and in the ensuing destruction their only Door to the Grand Stair was destroyed in the explosion. But they are saved by a servant of the master Engineer, a young dinosaur named Belthwit who called to them as the explosion was set. Her eyes twitched as the stress got to her but as the players touched her she activated the teleportation device and got the players safely to the moon. See, Name: Belthwit; Attitude: Protective, Inventive; Quirk: Facial spasms when under pressure.
Those types of characters I pretty much leave to fill out when I need them. I may write down a list of names at the start of the night that I can choose from (a good internet name generator can be handy, the one I use is here). It is an easy thing to do and as long as you have a dedicated book or page for them it is quick and simple. With LoGaS it is probably a good idea to note down the individuals Gossamer World as well so they do not get mixed up later on.
There will be the need to make NPC’s that are statted though. These are going to be the NPC’s that you want to use in your game and tie the adventures around or just have the players interact with and see what happens. For these characters you need to find a lengthier process. To illustrate what I do for this I am going to take you through an example of what I do.
LoGaS NPC Concept:
The first thing that I need here is a concept and this can be a very difficult task to undertake. The concept should factor in Who, What, When, Where and Why (My drama teacher would be proud). In the game you should also think about relative power as well. I like to make three versions of my characters as I often offer them up on the site and if I have a 100 point, 200 point and a 300 point then they can slot into a lot of adventures as is. I am going to do that here too so you can follow my process of how I advance them.
The questions Who, What, When, Where and Why are not easy ones to just instantly come up with. Unless you have a solid concept in your head that you envision you need to build that concept. I am a very visual person and so I use images to guide me. I hop onto Google and look at portraits and art to make the NPC’s. If they are going to be shared on my site I make sure that they are Public Domain or Creative Commons images. I am going to break that rule here though and beg the forgiveness of the LoGaS folks at Rite Publishing and build this character from a card of the Icon Deck so that people can see what can be done with these beautiful cards with a bit of time and know how! After all, here are 52 possible NPC’s right at hand.
So, I have chosen the above image for adding statistics to. I did this by shuffling the deck for a minute and plucking off the top card. Let us answer some of the questions that now get answered as I look over the image.
This image is of a normal girl, mid to late twenties who believes in spiritualism (or has ties to Native Americans) and education. She is intelligent, well mannered and reflective. I want to sum some of the above into a name that suits her. From the moment I turned the card the name Annabel ripped through my mind. It is a cultured name that holds strength and beauty so she is Annabel who? I grab my iPad and bring up the dictionary. I want this NPC to fill a slot that offers reliability and wisdom for the players. I want them to trust her and so I put Wisdom in and bring up the synonyms to see if there is something I can base a last name off of. The first glance is not good but then my eyes fall on Sage. Annabel Sage. There you have it. A simple name that I think sums her up well.
What is her purpose for me. Now I mentioned it above. I want her to be a source of information that the players can tap into. So how does she come by her information? Now this is an interesting question and one that I can build some hooks out of. Is she just another explorer or something else entirely? I am going to go with the latter option and make how she gets this information a bit mysterious. She is actually going to be a broker of information that runs a black market trade in information. She will run this out of the Agora and be relatively hard to find. She does not deal in money, coin or baubles though and for every bit of information that she can give, she will want something in return, probably favours initially, but then later when she calls those favours in adventures will probably result from them.
Due to this focus of hers she will likely be wanting to utilise information based powers and thus have a strong Psyche and Endurance. She will have a large network of contacts and followers willing to do her bidding. This will be important to consider when we come to stat her.
When did she find she was destined to be a Lady of the Grand Stair. I am going to say, based on the picture, that perhaps while she was exploring her spiritual connections she made a discovery in the books of Yale where she was learning to become a Doctor. That story fits really well with the feeling that I got from the card and also with one of my favourite books too, The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas which has a beautiful LoGaS feel to it as well. If you have not read it, give it a look.
In some of the books at Yale she found some obscure references to a Stair that she thought was to do with the path to enlightenment and so she followed the references to the letter. In an underground forgotten area of the University she found a golden gilded door as the cryptic references lead her on to the Grand Stair for the first time. It was the late 1960’s that twenty seven year old Annabel Sage went missing through the door and became a traveller on the Grand Stair,
This is pretty obvious in both cases by now. She came from Earth, a collegiate of Yale and on finding the Stair she has never returned. She had realised her goal of finding what she perceives as the truth and knows that Earth holds nothing for her anymore. She has found the most travelled position she can on the Stair (the Agora) and seeks to discover the pattern that must exist to the Gossamer Worlds, the Shadow and the Stair itself.
Well, that is an interesting question. Why indeed? She has always been searching for an answer to her own beliefs and now she wants an answer to all of existence. What drove Annabel to this point? There must be a mystery to her character that we need to uncover. I want it to be poignant and intriguing so I am going to use a horrible trope of many movies and novels. She was orphaned at birth.
Her parents were massacred in the hospital within 8 hours of Annabel’s birth. They were killed while she slept in her crib beside them in the hospital. She does not know the full details other than they were dismembered and some of their organs were missing. She was unharmed and in fact had been protected from the bloody mess by a pristine white blanket the killer had carefully lain across the crib. No one in the hospital had seen anyone that evening entering or leaving the maternity ward that was a stranger and the case is unsolved.
Annabel grew up with an Aunt, the sister of her Father. her Aunt never spoke a word to Annabel of her parents and it was only out of Annabel’s inquisitive nature that she ever found out about it. She wanted to do a family tree in junior high and her Aunt forbade her. Annabel did it anyway and found that she was not who she had thought she had been. This lead her to a rebellious streak through her teens that drove her Aunt to an early grave. Annabel could only rely on herself and she knew that there was something out there that would give her the meaning to that life, perhaps there was a reason she had been left and protected that night. Information on that would likely be the only reason she would return to Earth, and also information on that could be leverage with her for the players too.
Building Annabel Sage’s Statistics
Now I know who this young Lady is I can begin to think about her statistics. LoGaS has 5 statistics that you need to think about. Only four of those five can be dealt with initially. The statistics are Strength (used for physical strength and unarmed combat); Endurance (is a sort of flow on statistic for all of the other statistics and very important to pay attention to); Psyche (Used for a lot of the powers, spells and other things); Warfare (Used in any sort of armed battle and the understanding of tactics); and Bad/Good Stuff (which is a measure pretty much of how much the Universe likes/hates you). Bad/Good Stuff is determined after everything else is.
Annabel is going to be built in a 100 point, 200 point and 300 point model. Obviously none of her statistics will reduce as she goes down. In the details above I noted that her Psyche and Endurance would be major factors. I do not see her much of a fighter and would likely have other contacts deal with the physical nature of her business. I come up with the following statistics for her;
100 Points: Strength: 2; Endurance: 19; Psyche: 28; Warfare: 5
200 Points: Strength: 6; Endurance: 36; Psyche: 49; Warfare: 7
300 Points: Strength: 6; Endurance: 63; Psyche: 72; Warfare: 10
So at the 100 point build I have spent 54 points giving me 46 to play with; at the 200 point level I have spent 98 points leaving 102 left to play with; and at the 300 point build I have spent 151 points leaving 149 points. I want this character to be balanced and for that I try and keep the statistics at around 50% of the points. If you want a seriously strong NPC with far fewer power capabilities then use 75-85% of the points on attributes. If you want someone incredibly versatile power wise then you will need to reduce the ratio to about 30-40% for attributes.
Powers, Domains, Contacts and Items
I am going to make a note here that I am going to use only the rules presented in the base rulebook here. There have been some nice additions to some of the powers and rules that would likely do Annabel well but I will steer clear to give a base rules friendly build. In this section I will go through the 100, 200 and 300 point builds individually so we can make a progression from each tier.
100 Point Build
I have 46 points to play with here without giving Annabel any Bad Stuff. I do not want Annabel to ever have Bad Stuff so I will have to work with what I have got and hopefully have a little left over to put into the Good Stuff. The good news with that is that Annabel is not going to need a domain as she wants to be where the action is. Where she is accessible by those who are in the know or those who want to be in the know.
Lets start with her basic powers though. Unless there is some really good reason why not, you want to make the character a Warden of the Grand Stair at a cost of 10 points. This gives the NPC the ability to open a Door and we are already aware that Annabel has that trait so it is added for the 10 points leaving me 36 points. There will never be any intention in later stages to up this power for her. Annabel has no want or need to travel to Gossamer Worlds unless she is forced to and she is not averse to a little bit of a walk to do so.
At this stage of her career she is just beginning to learn of Umbra and Eidolon so we are not investing any points into those biggies (whopping 50 points!). What we need though is a way for her to gather information and use information. For that she needs to make contacts at this stage of her career and there is a power that helps her do just that through the creation of Icons with Wrighting. This power is set at 30 points so it is going to chew up a lot of her remaining points and leave her with very few points which means few contacts and no real followers.
What that means for the 100 point version of Annabel is that she is the character that is getting established. We find her here at her newest to the Stair. Perhaps some exploration and study but certainly new on the Stair. I have only 6 points left to deal with her and what I need is a solid ally. Perhaps the person that taught her the ability to Wright. So I spend my final 5 points in purchasing a Lady of the Grand Stair as an ally and looking through the book I find that Annabel would gel well with Dayle, who is also seeking meaning in her life.
That purchase allows me one point left over and so it slips into Good Stuff, meaning more often than not that Annabel will find herself aided in her path toward enlightenment.
200 Point Build
Where the 100 point build displayed Annabel as a relative new comer to the Grand Stair the upgrade to 200 points will see a good development of her as she has spent time establishing herself in the Agora and begun to build her network and reputation amongst those she wants to have heard of her. On her attributes we spent 98 points and for powers at the 100 point level she spent 45 points. Combined that is 143 points allowing us to further expand her growth to the tune of around 57 points.
Ideally I want Annabel to become an agent of change and entropy so I am aiming in the longer term for her to become an Umbra master but this is a longer term goal so will not happen in this incarnation. Right now what she needs is the ability to interact and manipulate people so she needs to pick up the Invocation special power which allows her to begin to collect True Names of beings, manipulate, communicate and conjure them. Just what an information broker needs, especially in combination with Wrighting. The power costs 20 points so that is leaving me with 37 points left to spend.
I have thought about giving her some Cantrips but I just do not really see her as the sorcery/magic type so I am leaving that as a possibility for maybe the three hundred point build but even then I would be surprised if that is the direction I take. What we are going to look at here though is building a network of spies and informants. A network that is ubiquitous in every available location. That is going to be expensive because a ubiquitous network has every point on it that is spent multiplied by six.
The network will be known as The Sage Informers. I am happy to leave them as average beings so I do not need to enhance their statistics in any way. One thing that they do need though is to receive combat training at the cost of a point. Information is precious so they need to be able to protect it and work as a team. In an effort to enhance their ability as combatants the members of the group will each be given a token that makes them resistant to normal weapons. Handy against locals but not really much use in a tangle with anything stronger. It also costs a point.
A group of spies and informants need to be trusted too so Annabel has the token imbued with a field of psychic white noise giving them psychic resistance at the cost of a point. So far that means three points used (18 points due to ubiquitous) but we need these beings to be able to pass through the doors of the Stair and also that their True Names be known by Annabel adding another two points bringing the organisation to a total of 5 points multiplied by 6 for ubiquity and a grand total of 30 points.
This leaves me with seven points to work with and I am going to use all of it to build the networks that I want to have in place for her at the 300 point build level. As Annabel is studying the Gossamer Worlds and the Shadow she needs an informant and that informant is going to be a Dwimmerlaik Ally for 4 points. Annabel has through her use of Wrighting and Invocation found a unique ability to deal with Krovaliss the Dwimmerlaik mentioned in the Threats section. On top of this though Annabel has the partisan support of a secret society that seeks to obtain the details contained in Lucien‘s Black Files. The organisation is known simply as The Mask. This support costs a further 3 points meaning that Annabel is now even with her Good Stuff score!
300 Point Build
Being that the 200 point build was even that meant she spent 102 on the total of her packages (she had 98 in attributes). This means that at 300 point build Annabel has already spent a total of 253 points (151 attributes and 102 powers) leaving me only 47 points to spend. I had hoped to get Umbra Mastery for her but unfortunately this is not going to happen at this point. It is certainly something she is interested in but not going to happen now.
There are a couple of things that I wanted to upgrade for her Sage Informers and that is to make them a more deadly force and also to give them the ability to shift shape to an alternate form thus giving them the ability to hide their true identities. This ability combined with combat reflexes making them more deadly costs a further two points but as they are ubiquitous those two points become 12. That gives me a grand total of 35 left to play with, which is great, but it leaves me at a crossroads.
I am really beginning to think that she needs the Umbra Mastery. It will really enhance her abilities to garner information as well as keeping her profile nice and shadowy. On the other hand I could build her an item or two that would really make her potent with her Wrighting and Invocation abilities. Only problem there though is there are too many points really to do it. You do not waste points with an insanely high Good Stuff when you can make them work for you. Weighing up my two ideas there is only one thing for me to do at this stage.
Umbra Mastery gets added to Annabel for 50 points. This puts me 15 points into Bad Stuff which means if I leave it like that she will die as soon as she steps out of bed! I have to make something give and it is going to be her attributes. I need about 19 points back from her attributes as I want her to have 4 Good Stuff at this level. Her attributes as they stand are;
300 Points: Strength: 6; Endurance: 63; Psyche: 72; Warfare: 10 and at 200 points were;
200 Points: Strength: 6; Endurance: 36; Psyche: 49; Warfare: 7
I need to come to a balance that is not lower than the 200 point level but are not as high as the 300 point level. I am immediately going to take back the 3 points I put into Warfare leaving 14 points to make up. Psyche jumped by only 23 whilst Endurance leapt 27 and so I am going to take 14 points from Endurance and 2 from Psyche leaving her with a killer Psyche score but still needs some work tempering herself to be able to truly be a master of her powers. So her redefined statistics look like;
300 Points: Strength: 6; Endurance: 49; Psyche: 70; Warfare: 7 and Good Stuff: 4
Now, I will just check my math – Statistics (inclusive of Good Stuff) are set at a combined total of 136 points adding on the 200 point build 102 points of powers makes that 238 points. Adding on a further 62 points from this build makes it the round 300 points!
LoGaS NPC Creation Conclusions
I have tried to get down all of my thought process as I built Annabel Sage so you can see the precise process that I generally use when I am making an NPC. The secret is that this game offers up a very fluid, easy character creation process BUT the fact that you have to get all your points to match that initial concept is something that needs some real thought behind it. I use images to get that first spark and try to make my world a very organic one where the NPC grows from the image. If I am after a particular role I try to find a picture that will lead me in the direction I want to go. I then follow this process and am still surprised by the turns that I go through to get
So, I hope that gives you a bit of insight and assistance in how to make an NPC. I never imagined it would become as large or as involved as it did, but hey, the more information the better. I hope to put up Annabel Sage in the format that I used for the other NPC’s in the near future but as it is a copyrighted image for the Icon Deck I will seek permission from Rite Publishing even though it is just a fan based thing!