You’ve now created your character, and have been playing him or her or it for awhile. But now, after a few months building your character, you want to create some supporting characters in addition to your main. Or maybe you just want to just deviate from playing the same character continuously and allow your creative juices to start flowing in a different direction. Or maybe you want to create other crew members on your ship who are not PC players. Whatever your motivations are, it becomes more and more difficult to SIM continuously in the group without creating at least one NPC along the way.
How important are NPCs in SIM? Extremely. And creating interesting NPCs, who are just as interesting as your main character can, and will allow your characters to learn and develop. Your NPC is will paint an overall picture of their surroundings and may even guide the direction of your SIM.
So how do you go about creating really interesting NPCs, and quickly, and those who will be an awesome antagonist to your main character, or even other PCs? Well, the first would be to give them at least one defining characteristic. Give them a nervous tic, a scar, whatever. This sets them apart from just a two dimensional character that we would normally forget. This particular quirk will be recalled by other SIMmers with ease.
Second, you’ll need to give your NPC some sort of background story. Like when you first created your main character, it doesn’t need to be drawn out, but we should have a good idea as to at least their recent history, and perhaps delve a little into their motivations. This will allow other SIMmers to better interact with your new NPC. I would suggest at least one background paragraph when first introducing an NPC. Unless you are creating holographic characters on the holodeck, we must assume, especially in the middle of a mission, that they didn’t just arrive out of nowhere.
Third, have them talk in a distinctive way. Try not to have all your characters talk the same way. Perhaps. You. Could. Have. Maybe. A. Character. That. Talks. Like. Bill. Shatner. or maybe onethatssonervousherneverstopsbetweenwords, for example.
Fourth, give them flaws. Use the same rules that guide your PC. Don’t turn your NPCs into powerSIMmers.
Fifth, and this is a biggie, and one I have personally erred with. Try to anchor your NPCs to a particular place or location. For example, if you’ve created an NPC bartender, leave them in the bar. Try to avoid SIMming them roaming the corridors of the ship, or in the arboretum, or in the holodeck. Same for example, engineering NPCs. Leave them in engineering. NPC bridge personnel, ditto. Leave them where they are supposed to be. You may be asking why? Well in answer to this, it allows for much easier interaction with your NPC by another PC if that PC is certain where they can find your NPC. It also allows the NPC and the NPC’s location to feel more real.
Sixth is to try to introduce your NPC twice. First introduce your NPC in passing and then produce your NPC.
Townson: ::in a hushed tone:: Did you hear? Our new bartender has some of the blue stuff. And its not replicated.
Bloggs: ::with a sly smile and an equally hushed tone:: If its what I think it is, its illegal in this sector.
Sim 2 (written perhaps the next day)
::As she sat behind the counter of the bar, she recalled the last few days and what led her to this posting…..::
What this does, is create a false sense of familiarity in the readers mind. The passing conversation in SIM 1 allows other readers to already have a foreknowledge of your new NPC before he, she or it even arrives on the scene.
Seventh is to focus on what the NPCs mean to PCs. Always remember that the main characters are the PCs. We don’t care what NPC1 thinks, acts or says regarding NPC2. But we do care what NPC1 thinks, acts or says towards any given PC. And PC writers will remember. You also have to consider what your NPCs may have offer to all PCs in your SIM, not just your own.
Eighth is give your NPCs false arcs. Changes in their thought processes, are important to add realism. In one SIM they may be happy, and the next sad, or they may like chocolate chip cookies in one SIM and hate them 20 SIMs later, for example. But unlike with your PC, there is no reason to give detailed explanations as to why.
NPCs not only add color and realism to our SIMs, they also allow our group’s writers to explore different forms of writing styles, write for characters we don’t normally write for, and allow us to open to new avenues of SIMming that we normally wouldn’t have such opportunity to SIM as in the role our PC plays. Creating memorable, 3 dimensional NPCs whom others can also become involved with is crucial if you wish to create long lasting memorable secondary characters. In your SIMs don’t be afraid to explore these avenues in your NPC creation. We are all amateurs here and SIMming is meant to be a fun, learning experience. And you can have fun in SIM, not only with your PCs, but with your NPCs too as NPCs open up a whole new world of SIMming enjoyment.