I know D&D is a game and most of it is so completely unlike our world that we have our imaginations bridge the gap for us. However, treating it like a real world goes a long way to making the experience better for you. One way that I recommend is treating the NPC’s like real people. Most tend to treat them like video game NPC’s or don’t interact with them at all.
We can all fall into the habit of treating people we meet in D&D like the Skyrim merchant with a bucket over his head. Acting as if they aren’t real enough to bother with. When we first started playing, we had a player tell an NPC that he was a hero from her childhood to gain her trust and a discount. He rolled persuasion and got a Natural 20. Normally, that would mean immediate success, but not for our games. My husband and DM wanted our games to be more realistic and that included treating people like real beings in the world. This woman could not remember this man claiming to be her hero.
It would probably be different if he had cast a charm spell or memory spell that justified that action of pretending to be her hero. However, he didn’t use any of those mediums, just tried lying and hoped that it would work out. Unfortunately, it did not work out. The woman knew he couldn’t possible be her childhood hero and charged him the same amount she would have any other guest. From then on though, the consequence would be that she would not believe him if he spoke to her again.
This showed our table that we had to be careful about our interactions with the people we encountered. Treating NPC’s like real people also gives you access to more adventures. We once met a gambling ship captain with a bad habit of cheating. We didn’t just have to be careful in dealing with her, we also had to interact with the people she had swindled or owed money to. We paid off her debt and contracted her as our very own ship captain. She was contracted to ferry is wherever we needed to go.
NPC’s that are part of the story as also important to interact with. Our wizard, Kaladrax, had a number of friends that were NPC’s. There was the family butler and friend, Marx, and his mentor, Professor Joldras, from Whistler Academy. Both had roles to play and were integral parts of the over arching story. By treating them like real people, having conversations and small adventures with them, we were able to find out more information than we would have otherwise. We also formed bonds with them that lasted all the way through to the end of the campaign and live in our memories forever.
Besides added another layer of realism to the story, NPC’s can also enrich the story. Many are afraid to interact with them at all. For some it’s because they don’t feel comfortable roleplaying and avoid situations that require that. I want people to stop worrying so much about roleplaying. An accent isn’t required and you don’t have to act in any way that isn’t comfortable to you. You can also ask questions and interact by starting with, “My character would ask…? or do…” You shouldn’t limit your ability to have fun by worrying about acting just right. It is all about how you want to play your own character.
Treating NPC’s like real people can go a long way in enacting the reality of your world. It seems like a hard thing to do when you want to play the coolest character you can. It is too much pressure. Just act like you really live in that world, imagine what normal people would feel growing up in that world and see them as individuals with real feelings and thoughts. It will greatly increase your enjoyment of the game and result in some great adventures.
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