Underestimated NPCs

Underestimated NPCs

One way to inject zest into a session or campaign is to give your players a 'I never saw that coming' moment.

An easy way for any GM to achieve this is to allow your players to underestimate an NPC.  The wider they are off the mark, the more dramatic the reveal!

Disguising a party's opponent is crucial if you are building to a final confrontation over several sessions.  The drama is improved if the players have met the individual several times but written them off as unimportant.

Some NPCs may wish to assist the party without revealing their true identity. There are several ways to achieve either objective:

Personality Quirks: We all make judgements about people. Instinctively, some characteristics trigger the 'not important' categorisation.

Over exuberant, prattling, foppish or narcissistic individuals tend to be written off.  Naïveté, unworldliness, conspicuous poor decision-making and gullibility give an equally harmless impression.

Anchoring Bias: This is a powerful unconscious trait triggered by preconception.

Feed your party impressions before the first meeting: 'Lovely chap, not that bright if you know what I mean..' 'Beautiful woman but a terrible guest; Talks endlessly and hasn't got a clue most of the time...' 'Frankly, you can't take him that seriously but he's harmless enough...'

If the NPC meets these descriptions the party are unlikely to question them.

Appearance and Impressions: Other factors you might consider include:

Outlandish, impractical clothes, excessive embellishment of hair, soft hands, "short-sighted watery eyes", a nervous smile, a weak handshake, a nervous laugh, an unsteady gait (aided by a cane) and lack of physical strength.

The trick is to provide a consistent, not over-done, picture across several interactions.  Enjoy the shock of the reveal and please share any success on the Facebook Scabard Community Forum!

Happy Gaming,
-Stolph

P.S.: Be sure to check out Who Needs Enemies.

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