On the Non-player Character

I'm A5 digest sized!
I published a useful thing!

Buy it in Print at Lulu!
Buy it in .pdf at Lulu!

I'm putting it up for sale. What is it? Obviously it's about non-player characters, but like what's in it?

Well, the most interesting thing is that I believe I've uncovered a hidden social combat system within Dungeons & Dragons for over 30 years.

I also think I've navigated a method of resolving social situations via player skill, rather than by personal social skill or by character skill. This is really interesting because it ties into a long series of discussions over what you choose to roll for at the table. Of course interacting with non-player characters is one of those things you can actually do so there's no need to roll. But doing so, means that your interactions and their success or failure are based on your personal social skill - the skill you have as a human being at social interaction.

This is really a mechanical solution to provide objectivity for social interactions and relies on your ability to gather information and make intelligent choices (i.e. player skill) for success.

You know, and that's not even the majority of the book. There's also useful tables and systems for generating memorable and immediately gameable long term non-player characters. I worked very hard to insure that you would never get a result and think "How am I going to get that to come up during a game?!"

It works seamlessly with whatever version of the classic game you are playing. It doesn't require anything from your players other than what they do now. They continue to interact with the game world as they always have, but you simply have an objective, impartial method of resolving their actions. This means it eliminates Dungeon Master mind reading, "Mother may I?" play, and pixel bitching.

Players don't need to master any new skills - the player skills they have will work just fine. There's no chance for anyone to have a game-breaking diplomancer, but now an 18 Charisma can actually be useful in concrete specific ways, as much as an 18 Strength can be.

I'll be putting up various sections from the book over the coming week. If you're curious why I'm charging, read this here. As an update, we're over 10,400 downloads of Tricks, Empty Rooms & Basic Trap Design. The book is also available at Onebookshelf (RPGnow and DriveThruRPG) but is slightly more expensive there, due to their increased costs.

Buy it in Print at Lulu!
Buy it in .pdf at Lulu!


  1. I get charging for your work, but that price tag puts it way far out of my range, especially for 62 digest sized pages.

    I hope you are successful in your venture!

  2. Well, I'm not forcing anyone to buy.

    It's cheaper than a ticket to a movie + Popcorn. It's about 2/3 the price of a large pizza.

    I think a book or system that you will have forever that works with whatever game you're playing is worth six slices of pizza.

    If anyone doesn't, then they are free not to buy. No one is twisting anyone's arm. I put up free stuff on the blog nearly every day of the year. Some of this will and has trickled onto the blog.

    If what you are saying is that you have excessive medical bills, crushing debt, or other extenuating circumstances, and there is maybe a service or exchange you can make, you are free to e-mail me and I'll see what we can do.

    You can also follow the e-mail notification list in the upper right of my blog. New releases usually go on sale for a reduced price for a few days before the official release.

  3. I have bought it, read, and will write about it ony my blog sometime during this or next week.

  4. Just did my first read-through and I have to say this idea excites me. I'm looking forward to compiling this with DM 1 & 2 into a spiral-bound book to refer to and write in. I'm going to need to read it a few more times and maybe practice the options, but I'm looking forward to trying the system out.

  5. I have a few questions regarding the procedures presented in the book.

    1. The gate-system presented in Appendix A is intended to be explained to players such as the rest of the mechanics? For instance, if they were to convince the king in the example to declare war, would the GM be expected to tell the players which gates are need to be navigated or to let them figure it out themselves (possibly interacting with the king and his ministers, researching, listening to rumours, etc.)?

    2. In the example of play describing the party's interactions with the gnolls, would the numbers be different if after the "conference", not Thaddius but Muffin continued the conversation? Would the previously rolled reaction and number of actions remain and only the active character's Charisma/Strength would be differing?

    3. Is Reaction to be rolled each time the party meets someone? For instance, if a party met Geoffrey the Demonologist the second time, besides Bond improvement being checked, a new Reaction roll would be necessary, right (at least for the number of actions available)?

    1. 1) Yes. I would make the players aware of what the goals were and the number/order they needed to accomplish them - just as in shadowrun I would tell them the job, and then shut up and let them plan how to do it.

      Personally, I don't view "Figuring out what we need to do in order to accomplish our goals" as a particularly enjoyable activity during a game. I think it's frustrating for the players and what seems obvious to the dungeon master often isn't for the players. Note that this is for the specific problem of having a goal and being forced to discover what needs to be done in order to achieve it, not exploratory play in general.

      There is a lot of play value in how they are going to achieve the goal, however, so that's how I'd handle it.

      2)No, I would allow the numbers to stay the same, unless Muffin segmented off a single gnoll or group for a new personal interaction. I would allow the previous reaction to stand. Players will not always be in a solid group and for various reasons certain players who have the highest charisma may not always want to be the "face man".

      3)Yes, I roll reaction every time. Because bad days and good days. People's mood varies, and reaction is really about the time they have available and their mood. If it's a long term thing, I'll often let bond modify it. For example, I don't apply bond to wandering monster encounter reactions. But for agents in town, I usually do (best to keep a first meeting short, sweet, and filled with gifts!)

      Thanks for the questions and comments! I hope you are enjoying the book!

    2. Thanks for your answers; and yes, I am enjoying it very much and intend to use it in my upcoming campaign.

  6. After reading your blog posts about this book, along with reviews and summaries elsewhere, I just bought a PDF copy. I needed this for my campaign. On behalf of my players and my own, thank you very much for putting this together.

    In the years since you published this, have you had further thoughts about this system you put together?

    1. Yeah. I've got a sheet where I've updated it for Fifth Edition.

      I use it in every RPG I play, adjusted for the local flora and fauna of social skills. I use bonds for every NPC relationship. I use the tables for on the spot NPC creation (usually rolling twice on the immediately gameable personality table).

      At this point, I don't have any changes I would make at all, except to insert my new conversion sheets for the different versions of the game I run, and that would push the page count too high.

      I'm glad you are finding it useful. It is one of my most important gaming resources. I use it weekly.

    2. I'm studying it closely now and will certainly use it in my 13th Age campaign. When I sort that out, I'll share with you any 13th Age extensions for it.

      I'm also studying Bioware's dialog and relationship system, The Sims's personality system, and a few other things, with an eye toward what if anything might play nicely with your core system. I've already compared it closely to Chainmail, OD&D, and Holmes, to better understand how you developed it.

      It's a nice core, Courtney. Well done.

    3. Have you posted up the fifth edition update sheet anywhere?

    4. Have you posted the Fifth Edition update sheet anywhere?

    5. Sure, it's right here:
      On a Limited Chance.

      It's also directly linked on the sidebar.

  7. Hi,

    Just a quick note to say, "Thanks, this looks nice!" I bought this product on Lulu today. It's exactly what I've been missing in 5E. I do like the original 2d6 rules better than the 5E conversion, because the 5E conversion relies on d20 rolls which don't have the nice bell curve effect of a 2d6 to make the effect of a modifier relatively independent of other modifiers. In a system that's built around stacking and manipulating modifiers, having a bell curve seems fairly essential. I think I might have players roll 2d10 instead of d20 for their checks, unless I work out a more elegant mechanism.

    There's a little bit of discussion of the product in the 5E forum at Enworld. If you have any thoughts to share, please consider joining the discussion: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?469993-Social-Challenges-amp-Political-Conflicts/page2&p=6722858#post6722858


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