NPC Approaches

Bear with me here, this is still a pretty experimental idea, but I have found myself wondering what happens if the GM starts having approaches.

There are some slightly indirect ways to implement this – NPC approaches make a lot of sense when you’re talking about villains. Heck, I could totally see a villain whose approaches are:

  • Minions
  • Gadgets
  • Gloating

and it would be pretty easy to run with that. Really, you’re mostly just using them as a means of establishing difficulty baselines, so the mechanical challenge is straightforward. And as a GM, they basically create clear directions of action for the villain. I mean, yes, you could probably come up with a universal list of villain approaches, but I admit t really like the idea of customizing them per villain.

It seems like a fun way to handled “named” villains in FAE. I mean, most NPCs in FAE really can be viewed as having 3 approaches:

  • What I Do Well: +2
  • What I do poorly: –2
  • Everything Else: 0 (and you can really just toss this)

Taking the Steel Assassin from the book (p. 38)

  • Sneaking and Ambushing: +2
  • Standing up to determined Opposition: –2

Yes, it’s just a reframing of what’s already there, but in thinking about them like approaches, it becomes easy to scale these things up for more interesting opposition without necessarily making for more complicated opposition. That is, if I need the Steel Assassin Wizard, it’s as simple as

  • Sneaking and Ambushing: +2
  • Lightning Magic: +2
  • Standing up to determined Opposition: –2

(and, yes, this streamlines EVEN FURTHER if you mush approaches and aspects together for NPCs, and there’s no good reason not to in a lot of cases).

One useful thing about this is that most NPCs matter only in the context that they appear in. That is, in most situations we don’t ever need to know how good a cook the enemy mecha pilot is, so we can easily represent him with Guns, Missiles and Laser Sword approaches. PCs need to be much more robust, so they need the general approaches, but that scene-specificity allows the GM much more leeway in thinking about NPC approaches.

This becomes even more important when you want to hang additional fiddliness off these things. To use the mecha example, why would you differentiate lasers and missiles as approaches? Why not just call them a “weapons” approach, and fill in the color?

The answer is that you totally can do that, but sometimes we WANT to make that differentiation, and mechanics can support that. Maybe Lasers ignore armor, or Missiles can attack multiple targets. A few simple things like this can give an enemy a lot of extra color, and the mechanics are usually as simple as “lower bonus, but some manner of special effect”. To go back to our Steel Assassin, we upgrade him to the ICE ASSASSIN as follows:

  • Sneaking and Ambushing: +2
  • Frozen Strike: +0, adds “Frozen” aspect on hit.
  • Shattering Blow: +2, invoke target’s “Frozen” aspect for free.
  • Standing up to determined Opposition: –2

The “combo” that drives this NPC is pretty straightforward (Freeze people then smash them) so it’s not much more complicated to run, but it’s much more colorful than our usual steel assassin.

This is one of those things that let’s a GM use FAE for her end of play, even if the players are using Fate Core, because the mechanics really are a list of the things the GM hopes to see in the scene, supported simply and robustly.

Of course, this is just one approach. There’s another one that’s been on my mind for another day.

4 thoughts on “NPC Approaches

  1. Pingback: "One of those things that let’s a GM use FAE for her end of play, even if… – doyce testerman

  2. Pingback: GM Approaches Strike Back | The Walking Mind

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