And this moment comes, when we get to finally play a part in the game, pretending to be one of the NPCs in the story. Most of us put a lot of effort into them, creating them and painting them (figuratively or else) and we try to breathe life into them and make them deep and well-rounded and not 2-dimensional and when we finally get to playing them, they sound so unnatural, so mechanic. I don't know about you, but it sure happened to me, and I can't stand it.
I've rounded up a list of a couple of the mistakes that I've made when portraying NPCs (and characters in general):
- Calling the characters all the time by their names. This mistake is big and old, and I suffered from it for many, many years: Every time I spoke to the PCs as an NPC, I referred to them by name. There are places where it is important (like, when referring to a higher class or something), but we don't, in a normal conversation, refer all the time to one another by names (or at least, I suppose so...). So, instead of saying: "So, Bob, how are you today?" say: "So, how are you today?". Also, try calling higher standing persons "your excellency" and not "Mr. Geldof" and so on. Trust me, it does magic.
- Not so much me, but I've seen many GMs go and say as their NPC: "Blah blah blah..." he said angrily. In RPGs, we can use our voices to tell that, and it will be so much more powerful. If the NPC is angry, talk angrily, don't say the Queen Regent spoke angrily.
- Don't give speeches. I remember it like it was yesterday: I was GMing to a group of 4 for the second year in our (then) ongoing campaign. They arrived in the nick of time to stop the villain, and she gave them a speech. The fact that it was a supers campaign was no excuse for that, as their faces turned down, and they started to talk about other things, wandering out of the game. Don't give speeches in games, ever. It never ends well, and for fuck's sake with genre conventions, we're not in comics after all...
- Don't try to be cunning or clever all the time. You know those players who just can't stop trying too hard to be funny or clever? Remember how annoying it is? Why should your NPCs be the same?
- Get to the point. In real life, we have, at least theoretically, the time to go round all angles before saying our line. In our game, on the other hand, we don't. Get to the point, with as little as possible of rounds and turns to get time, unless it's... I don't know, actually.
So, that's it for today. How about you? What dialogue mistakes did you make with portraying your NPCs?