Dungeons & Dragons Online

NPCs (usually) aren’t suicidally devoted

Was spectating a game recently, saw this situation come up:

  • Combat encounter, party and allied NPCs get set on fire, taking damage every turn until they spend an action to extinguish themself
  • A big problem happens on one side of the map, which the NPCs volunteer to spend their turns addressing while the party goes to the other side of the map to fight the enemies.
  • DM describes the NPCs taking damage every round because they weren't explicitly told to take time away from their objectives to extinguish themselves.
  • They were prepared to literally burn to death rather than delay completing their objective for 6 seconds because of the party's orders.

In the moment the GM didn't realize how silly this was, but when I pointed it out to him he realized that it made no sense.

Some time later, in a campaign I was GMing, an allied NPC (which I allow the players to control in combat) was inside of a vehicle, using a turret to shoot at enemies. The players were outside the vehicle, fighting the enemies on the ground. Enemies had rocket launchers, and the vehicle was damaged enough that 1 more rocket would blow up the vehicle.

When it comes to the NPC's turn, I tell the players, "NPC is going to leave the vehicle. She'll do whatever else you want her to do, but from her perspective it looks like it's about to blow up, so she's getting out of it."

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Players tried to argue that she doesn't know for certain that it's going to blow up, point out that they're supposed to be controlling her, and generally act surprised that she isn't willing to take that massive gamble with her life.

Remember: most people aren't willing to fight to the death! That goes for both enemies and allied NPCs. People will generally take actions which improve their own odds of survival, even if it's not necessarily the most strategic decision for the encounter. It adds a lot of depth and personality when characters make decisions from that context instead of just "how can I harm the enemy as much as possible?"


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