If you’re running a game occasionally a PC may stop and speak with an NPC (insert pause for audience reactions of shock and laughter). You may have one of those players who wants to talk with NPCs rather than immediately cutting their throats and rolling their dead bodies. People as a broadcloth statement are generally helpful. If you stop to ask a random person for directions they are generally going to at least attempt to help.
Players, being exploitative, bourgeois pig-dogs, will take a poor NPC for all he’s worth. So I developed a little guideline for running helpful PCs. When the party asks for some sort of aid roll a d10.
– 1, 2, 3, 4: The NPC is willing to provide minor aid in the way of instructions, a bit of gear, borrowed item/manpower, or a map. (Superior)
– 5, 6, 7: The NPC is willing to guide the party or supervise an expedition. (Manager/Specialist)
– 8, 9: The NPC is willing to share the trials and troubles of the task equally with the party in a partner role. (Partner)
– 10: The NPC is willing to do minor tasks and errands on the party’s behalf or place himself between the party and danger. (Subservient)
This table even works for NPCs who are hiring the party for a task. Now use some common sense, if the king hires the party and you roll a 6, the king is not going to hop off his throne and go chasing around the countryside in mortal peril. But he will likely send a representative such as a captain, trusted nobleman, cousin, or non-heir son to oversee the task as an agent of the crown.
Likewise an NPC in the Partner role expects to be treated as such. This NPC is not going to be OK with being a human shield or sacrificial lamb. This NPC may also expect a partner share in any reward for the task.
Using NPCs that have their own values and sense of self-preservation help enrich your games. These are also great characters to have recurring roles in the party’s travels. Grooming a rapport between the PCs and NPCs really helps to enmesh the players’ characters into the world. Some of the most rewarding RP experiences are the exchanging of favors, deals, and insights between the PCs and recurring NPCs.