My Favourite NPC Move — Gain Leverage
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1011
My favourite NPC Move is Gain Leverage.
I don’t know about your players, but mine will trust and be loyal to allies, be cautious around neutrals, and murder hobo enemy NPCs.
It’s the enemy NPCs I worry about most. The neutrals too, if the barbarian is feeling frisky.
What’s a poor NPC to do when facing a band of over-powered thugs incentivized by a universe that rewards hacking, slashing, and looting?
Find out a character’s weak spot and push that button to save the NPC. Push hard if you must.
This not only applies to combat.
When players grab their d20 and declare the age-old tactic of “I intimidate!” you can forestall luck’s whim with a confident smile.
When characters stomp on your plot hook with their Magic Boots of Bullying, you can bounce back with a deft flick of your Cape of Leverage.
It’s tricky, though.
You cannot just conjure Gain Leverage out of thin air.
You should have a Milieu with depth accumulating each session because it’s hard to find Leverage in a world without consequences.
You should also consider adding an Adventure Crucible to each Loopy Thread because it’s hard to find Leverage in situations without constraints.
And you should have ideas for leverage prepped in advance so you know how to roleplay your NPCs because it’s hard to find Leverage in the moment without inspiration.
For example, in Duskfall one Story Crucible will be The Law.
The party wants to stay in the guards’ good books else their missions could fail or cost more to complete.
Perhaps one mission is to find the spy within the Queen’s Guard, and without guard cooperation they won’t be able to fully investigate all leads.
Now, smart NPCs have possible leverage.
Anything that makes guards hostile or non-cooperative hinders the PCs.
An NPC could report on illegal PC activities. Or frame the PCs for a crime. Or whisper to a relative in the Queen’s Guard. Or even know who the spy is and warn them about the PCs.
The key is to find out what your players need.
And avoid the over-used threats to friends and family. That just causes every new PC to be an orphan.
Use your milieu of setting + plot + character development to create cool opportunities for NPC Leverage that make sense to the story. Next time the party rolls up and flashes their vorpal threats, use Gain Leverage to turn the tables and make gameplay even more interesting.