Why don't you NPC?

Auric

Administrator
Alliance General Manager
Alliance Logistics
One thing I have noticed in my region lately is a lower turnout of NPC's, a vital role in the success of the game. So, I have a question to those players that always or mostly always PC:

1)What is it that keeps you from NPCing/what don't you enjoy about it?
2)What sort of incentives might get you to NPC?
An example might be something like: 10% of treasure policy is split between NPC's.
 

Auryn

Newbie
I have claustrophobia. I can't cope with people actively swarming me on a good day, let alone with foam sticks. I play an rogue archer for a reason unfortunately.
I would if I could, but it's something I've just had to learn to cope with.
 

MondayMcGee

Scholar
San Francisco Staff
I really enjoy NPCing and have been trying to do it more lately. My main barrier is that I tend to get pretty invested in the story and don’t want to “miss” events as my character. Last time I NPCd the Plot team was kind enough to give my character some good reasons for being absent, and a bit of cameo time, so that I could still feel involved in the story. That helped a lot!
 

Draven

Count
Seattle Staff
Marshal
I used to NPC for one chapter and PC for the other. Unfortunately, the schedules for them have been too close to each other in order for me to do both with anything like regularity (I'm finally hitting the NPC chapter after being gone for...over a year, I think).

I don't mind double-hooking, though, and I really think split fights are great.
 

Ruki

Scholar
I feel like my character is 'missing the story'. But things like double hooking or NPC shifts? I don't have any issues with that at all!
 

Draven

Count
Seattle Staff
Marshal
I feel like to explore why people aren't NPC'ing, it's important to find out why people are.

In my experience, the primary drivers for NPCing are:

1) Financial (in Seattle and Oregon, NPCs do not pay an event fee).
2) First event low-investment.
3) Veteran player wanting to help tell a story as a dedicated NPC/Plot member.
4) Wants to primarily stick-jock without real character interaction.
5) Enjoys roleplaying, but hasn't decided on a PC persona yet.

2.0 has improved the low-level PC experience, which is great, but it doesn't surprise me that NPC populations would dwindle as well. Goblin Stamps have value, but for chapters with LCO rituals or MI pick lists, there's less incentive because 2.0 is less MI intensive.

I suspect that some chapters might need to look at offering "contracts" to NPCs who agree to NPC for X events, in return for Y Dragon Stamps upon completion of that contract. This is especially true when Season Passes are so abundant.

Alternatively, chapters might partner to offer cross-chapter incentives, though their schedules would need to be compatible.
 

Draven

Count
Seattle Staff
Marshal
Ehhhh, I'm not sure how effective that data is. Consider:

1. A four month window is an awfully small sample size when you consider the scheduling fluctuations within the Alliance; some chapters are almost certainly underrepresented, while others may be over-represented. This is especially true when factoring day-events.

2. You're looking at ratios, not at actual NPC populations. A ratio is affected by PC presence; as a result, a changing ratio might occur from a group of players who had conflicting LARP schedules, illness, other personal events going on in their lives, or even organizational changes. This wouldn't adequately represent the actual NPC numeric differences themselves.
 

Alkalin3

Administrator
Chief Technology Officer
South Michigan Staff
Marshal
I pulled it down because after poking around I'm not 100% sure it's right I'll look at it after I go home.
 

Lillyfur

Newbie
So, I'm coming at this as a player who's only ever PC'd. I don't believe I've ever even crossed over for one fight. For me, I tend to lean a lot more towards the roleplay side of things in larp, and I don't get involved in combat quite as much as others. Part of it comes from fear of getting whapped, and another part is that I feel like I don't have the physical skills to be successful as an NPC. I feel like if I NPC'd for an entire event there wouldn't be enough non-combat roles for me to be involved in, and I wouldn't want plot to have to make some up just because I didn't want to do combat. Coming from a different look at things, I also try to avoid knowing meta information, as it's very hard to seperate what you know in-game and out when making decisions as a character. By staying out of NPCing and avoiding oog information, it's a lot easier for me to make decisions as my character because I only know what she knows, and I enjoy they mystery and struggle of not knowing what's going on in the world.
 

jerrett

Newbie
Background for my opinion: I just got back into LARPing after a long hiatus. Really enjoying Alliance - Calgary. I haven't played any other Alliance game. For now, I can't see myself NPCing any of the multi-day events exclusively but I do plan to NPC exclusively for Calgary's upcoming winter campaign.

1. Being a PC is a ton of fun. As a newer player there is still a lot to learn as a PC re: game lore/background that I want to be around and engage in. Being an NPC doesn't help with that. It can help with understanding how the game is played, trying out different types of game abilities, etc., but that's not the same role play as a PC on the receiving end of a plot hook trying to stop the end of the world.

2. The finances seem really off for NPCing, in my opinion. I have a hard time understanding why NPCs are charged event fees when they're volunteering to be beat on and told what to do all event. Seems like right now the PC cost is about 3x more than the NPC cost (for Calgary chapter, at least). Yes it is fun, but is it as fun as being a PC? I think most people would disagree with that so when you're taking a full weekend to drive away from the city and still pay a reasonable chunk of change to be a NPC, it seems like it's an easy jump to just be a PC instead of a NPC unless you're really into that. I think that if the financial side is off, it's going to be hard to entice people with treasure/build/stamp rewards that make them want to be a NPC, even if you have absurdly high rewards. Getting people to the site, in my opinion, may be the larger issue. OOG rewards do help (people on plot teams or such getting additional ways to evolve/develop their characters, etc.) -- presently that may also be an issue that isn't enticing enough for people who would go and can afford it but don't feel it is worth it from the reward side of things so more rewards would likely be useful, too.

As a side note, and this may be an unpopular opinion to implement, but in the past I have attended LARPs where a work-chit protocol was used to ensure everyone was helping to some extent with duties that were required, particularly with having enough NPCs present. That balance tended to help a lot with making sure there were enough monsters present. The basics of this were that everyone needed to do some game-related work on-site in order to get their event blanket. This could be done via a formal marshal shift (usually allowing to do light roleplay but not allowed to leave a central area for people to find the marshal to get them), monster marshal (running NPC camp and sending out monsters--usually separate from plot so that plot could focus on other stuff besides general direction of what monsters are being sent), cooking, site cleanup, logistics, or being a monster/npc. Typically all shifts aside from being a monster were 4 hours of work to get something signed off. Monster shifts were 2 hours. I think this helped get more people there (again, likely unpopular if not a present requirement but a lot of folks I think are volunteering right now to take a bit of extra time in NPC camp to ensure there is enough going on for other folks.
 
I usually try to make it a point to go npc a little bit when I play, usually in the morning because my internal clock has me up and moving before most people are conscious. I like being the resident morning alarm monster to let people know play time is on.

There isn't much I dislike about npcing. It's that I usually I feel guilty about npcing because I am not very good at combat which is a large part of npcing. More often than not, I feel like I am free loot and I hate that. I feel it's detrimental to the fun of the game for all parties. Might just be my anxiety but it's how I feel, so I do my mornings when most people are barely awake anyway and easy monsters are great.

As for incentives I don't think much about it. I npc to help out. I had not most of the year due to my character always having things going on. I'd go into game thinking to get 1 or 2 things done and then I'd have 5 more things people needed me for. Last event though I made it a point to do a shift because there was a lot of people. I was also happy to double hook where needed cause no npcs means no running game and I happen to like my game.

I will say many folks I know opted to be npcs cause it's free/cheaper than pcing and they had the time to come play but not the funds. Second reason was usually to build a character faster or to get some IG reward.
 

J'rajj

Newbie
I would NPC more if I could, but the big reasons are
- My friend group PCs, and we run our chapter's tavern. If we all left to NPC, there would be nobody to make food and I want to play with my friends.
- I play a makeup race, and it takes me a long time to get it all to how I like it. I can't really jump fence for a couple hours, because once my makeup goes on, It's not coming off til Sunday morning.
- I have personal plot to progress, gold to make, blackjack to win

That being said, I enjoy NPCing when I do during one-day events and events that I can only half-attend due to work.
- Killing your friends is fun!
- You get to play wildly different characters than your own PC
- Sometimes being a crunchy can suck if you're a random undead or whatever. I prefer crunchies that can talk and have some banter with the PCs
- one of my top 3 favorite all time larp moments was when I was assigned to play a big bad guy on a whim. It was great.
 

airkshil

Scholar
I've larped for about eight years now, mostly at alliance but I've attended others sporadically. I've been on staff at other games and I've help run a few alliance games here and there.

I pretty much exclusively PC these days but I do miss npcing a lot. Feeling like I'm missing out for my pc is definitely part of the reason, but I also really just want to be able to tell my own stories if I'm npcing. I really dread npcing for a weekend and just being a crunchy all weekend. It might not be the majority, but I know there's at least some experienced NPCs who who either don't know the plot staff well enough or have similar reasons for not npcing.
 

MaxIrons

Squire
Oregon Staff
Marshal
As a plot member, I've found that the biggest thing that can be done to retain the NPCs you do get, so you build a stable crew over time, is to give them meaningful roles and/or the ability to impact the story in at least a somewhat meaningful way.

The second is a harder thing. Mentor. You'll be super busy running the game, but whenever possible take someone under your wing and teach them the things it takes to be a good NPC, a good monster, a good stick-jock, a good caster, and a good story teller. Teach them the unwritten things about running a good game. If your cast is being taught how to eventually take over for you, then they'll be involved and are more likely to be that next generation of fresh blood with fresh ideas that will keep our game going.
 
For me, it's that I simply can't play a crunchy for that long. I enjoy a secondary campaign where I'm a fighter for two weekends a year, and I will often double-hook to assist the experience for others, but a full weekend of non-plot NPCing just seems more brutal than my aging body can handle.
 

Muir

Fighter
I can be blunt about it.

My 'home chapter' is a 3.5 hour drive one way and I work nights which means that if I'm coming to game, I'm burning PTO every time, and making every event for a year is an impossibility of scheduling. The event fee is a negligible part of the cost of attending, so free events for NPCing isn't a draw in any way.

Time spent NPCing is time my character isn't around. As much as people want to not to have it be the case, becoming known as 'that guy who's never around' means your character doesn't get included in plot, and since both of the games I play are addicted to 'town loot' also means you never get a cut of any splits. Plot, wealth, and xp are the three methods of advancement available to a character, and that cuts out the two that I actually need to go to games for.

As a side note, and this may be an unpopular opinion to implement, but in the past I have attended LARPs where a work-chit protocol was used to ensure everyone was helping to some extent with duties that were required, particularly with having enough NPCs present.
Just to be explicit, if we went to some DR-style version of this I'd be done with the game. I don't at all mind helping out or doublehooking, as the thousands of GS I have scattered across chapters might indicate, but 'do this thing that you don't enjoy and which actively gets in the way of doing the things you do enjoy' turns the game into a job, and I've already got one of those that I'm trying to enjoy not being at.
 

MaxIrons

Squire
Oregon Staff
Marshal
Be blunt. There are a myriad of valid reasons not to NPC. There are always those who, for whatever reason, like it. If you retain and train them, you'll generally be okay.
 

Muir

Fighter
Absolutely. I value the people who like to NPC and want to do it, because they generally make the game more fun for everyone. It just doesn't work out well for my particular situation.
 

Gandian Ravenscroft

Knight
Chicago Staff
Marshal
When I first started playing, I didn't even consider NPCing whatsoever because I didn't want to miss any of the plot, treasure, or character growth that comes with PCing, so I definitely understand that mindset for a lot of people. Nowadays, though, my characters have all the skills they need, more than enough treasure, and enough plot experiences that I'm not hungry for more. Every event I PC I find myself thinking "Man, I just don't get the same fun out this as I used to."

NPCing now, though? Now that's my jam. No stress over dying? No stress over treasure? Tons of chances for me to wear a variety of costumes? Tons of different roles rather than having to stick with the same thing all weekend? Tons of fancy makeup that I get to play around with? Cheaper/free event fee that appeases my cheapskate nature? Sign. Me. Up.

Here's the thing, though: A huge amount of my love of NPCing is because I have always had a ton of freedom with it in the chapters I play in. I like to be able to think up unique and engaging characters, monsters, encounters, mechanics, props, etc. and make them happen, and even when I wasn't formally on the plot team of a given chapter, the plot staff knew me enough as a player to give me a LOT of freedom when I joined their side for the weekend. Of all the games I have NPC'd while not actually on the plot team, I can remember being given more or less "honorary plot staff" status for the event. I was given big combat cards, I was given important RP roles, etc. If I was going to an event with the knowledge that I'd be just be grinding all weekend as waves of unnamed, unimportant, constantly-respawning lackey roles wearing a colored bedsheet, I wouldn't NPC.

But that's the thing: New player NPCs tend to get relegated to the most menial roles simply because they are still learning all the rules and the plot team can't usually rely on a new player being able to handle anything more complex, and this tends to make new player NPCs have the most boring, uninteresting first impression of NPCing possible. They get to play the smallest, simplest NPC cards on the field while watching unique, interesting PC characters and big plot NPCs from a distance, dropping their desire to keep on NPCing when they could simply PC and escape their life of NPC drudgery. As a plot person, I know I'm guilty of giving newer or less-experienced NPCs these smaller roles, and while a part of me feels really bad about it every time I do, it's often just sort of the nature of the beast when it comes to running an event.

"The plot staff should just give them more meaningful roles, then!" I hear you say, but it's nowhere near that simple. For an event to go as planned, the important roles usually need to be played by the people that are able to achieve the desired result. Being a good NPC takes a lot of knowledge of not only the game rules, but also physical combat prowess, game design, social skills, campaign setting information, and so much more. In an ideal world, NPC crews would probably be comprised entirely from veteran players, but for most games, that's probably never going to fully happen because there will always be veteran players that would rather keep PCing (and there's nothing inherently wrong with that).

Let me tell ya, though: there's nothing I love more than when up-and-coming plotter players come to me to teach them my "NPCing secrets" so that they can become better plotters themselves. I love to explain my thought processes about how and why I do the things I do when I run plot, and I love to see other players honing their own style as NPCs. Learning and growing as a PC is a way easier route than learning and growing as an NPC, but man, the latter is so rewarding in a way people probably don't even realize.
 
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