Thursday, November 12, 2009

Berserk #2: Not Patrons But...

Another look at how Berserk, the Manga by Kentaro Miura, can be useful in stiring the stew of inspiration! There will be spoilers and other bits below so beware those who want to remain virigin in terms of what Berserk is all about. For those curious about it, there's a preview of this issue right over here at the Dark Horse site.
Berserk #2 starts off with Guts on the run from the city's militia after he insults the ruler. Yeah, he's got PC written all over him.
The person whose assisted Guts on his escape though is another unique character. Not rich, not powerful, but rather, weak, crippled, and scared and frightened. Certainly not the traits of a patron.
However, he doesp rovide Guts with an up close and personal bit of information about the person Guts has some to battle. This weak creature, Vargas, provides some key bits of information including the time when the Count changed. Including the fact that the count isn't human. In addition, Vargas owns a few things.
These are minor trinkets overall in terms of their influence on a campaign, but they showcase that even a poor NPC may have items that the players may be interested in or that the Game Master can utilize to showcase a larger world. For example, one of the items Vargas owns is a pickled elf. In this setting, elves are like faeiries in that they have wings and fly around. For Vargas to have one indicates that while they are rare, they're not that rare. The Game Master could also use such an individual as to showcase specific things. For example, what if the game was set in the Forgotten Realms and there was an arquebus there? What would old Vargas care if the PCs wanted it and his limited supply of smoke powder?
The thing about Vargas though, is that while he possesses no money, his motivation, revenge, is very strong and very easy to recognize. When plotting the use of NPCs, try to tie them into the player's own motivations.
For example, while Guts plays off his superior strength, it's important to remember what Guts already looks like. He's covered in scars. He's missing an eye and an arm. While Vargas is worse off and can't fight at all, Guts has a lot of similarities to him that fuel his rage.
By playing off of the similiarities that an NPC has to a character, the player's may be more motivated to help them if alignment itself isn't enough.