Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Making NPC Decisions with the Mythic GM Emulator

The Mythic Game Master Emulator is a well-known system for running RPGs without a GM, or for providing extra plots twists and scene detail for GMs that lack planning time. It uses an ingenious scene, chaos and table system to spin out answers to yes/no questions and insert plot twists into the game as you play. I use Mythic GME quite a bit, both to inspire myself as I run games or for solitaire play.

Mythic GME is also a nice tool for making NPC decisions on the fly. I'm using it in this way for my play-by-email Wilds game. If long-term PBEM gaming has taught me anything, it's that sometimes players just aren't there. People get busy, drop out or just forget a turn response. When that happens, I use Mythic GME to decide what their character does.

For each character in the game, I define a brief list of driving desires (usually three). These represent the character's primary motivations, and they're described by a short phrase and a Mythic likelihood. What's a Mythic likelihood? It's the odds of something happening, represented by the descriptors pulled from the Mythic Fate Chart. These range from Impossible, through Unlikely and Likely to Has to be. Here's a quick example, using Raúguey from my Wilds game:

Raúguey is dumb and unwise (Int: 5, Wis: 4). Before he went adventuring, he was earning a living as a pit fighter. He's motivated by action with an occasional flash of tactical insight, treasure, and the occasional bluff. In Mythic terms, here's Raúguey.

  • Get to the Action: A Sure Thing
  • A Smart Tactic: Unlikely
  • Treasure you say?: 50/50
  • Talk it Out: Unlikely

So, how do you use this? Let's take the current Wilds turn as an example. The party has just been shot at by some kobolds who are hiding in the dark. There may be other foes around because the party has heard warning horns sounding in the distant parts of the dungeon. Strom, Grendor and Durego are going to charge south to put an end to the kobold snipers, and they expect Raúguey will follow. To figure out what Raúguey does, I roll four times on the Mythic Fate Table and weigh the results:

  • Get to the Action: Yes
  • A Smart Tactic: No
  • Treasure you say?: Yes
  • Talk it Out: No
Well, that looks pretty straightforward. There's a fight, and Raúguey wants in. They're only kobolds, so no real tactics here, just bull rush them. Treasure? Maybe. At the very least they have crossbows the party can take and sell.

As a second example, here's Saurabh, the cleric.
  • Support the Group: Very Likely
  • Fear: Likely
  • Back Raúguey: 50/50

Saurabh was Raúguey's hireling and sole survivor of the party's original guards. He's taken a step up in the world and joined the party as a full-fledged member. He knows he's weaker than the others, and he's terrified to be out here, but he thinks he needs to prove his courage to honor his dead friends. He also follows a deity dedicated to community and group service. Let's see how he rolls out this turn...
  • Support the Group: No (event: abandon emotions)
  • Fear: Yes
  • Back Raúguey: No
So, his nerves are probably going to get the best of him this turn. None of these results is particularly strong (an exceptional yes might lead to a panic attack), so I'll ask a few more questions to clarify. I'll ask these in order and use the first definitive answer.
  • Does he retreat (50/50)? No
  • Does he stick with the rearguard (50/50)? No
  • Does he advance in another direction (very unlikely)? Extreme no
  • Does he freeze (likely)? Yes (event: dispute war)
Looks like he's going to have a quiet meltdown instead of a run-screaming-into-the-darkness panic attack.

Of course, you can use the same methods to determine how foes are going to react too. Let's take a look at the kobolds that have been sniping at the party:

  • Sneaky (very likely): Yes
  • Following Orders (very likely): Yes
  • Fearful (likely): Yes

These kobolds are part of the Necromancer's forces, so they're somewhat motivated to follow orders (no one wants to end up a zombie). Of course, they're also kobolds, so sneaky and fearful come with the territory. The results indicate they'll probably do what they're supposed to. What that is I can't say just yet, but tomorrow's turn should make it clear.

Using Mythic GME in this way makes it easy to create actions on the spot for absent/inattentive party members or NPCs. In this example, I ignored the events that came up as I rolled, but if you need a little further inspiration, you can use them to round out your rolled results or spice up the scene. Mythic GME is a great tool for anyone that wants to add a bit of controlled chaos and randomized decision-making to their game.

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