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Is there a good paper based solution to keep track of NPC stats so they are avaliable when you need them in-game but don't take hours to keep up to date?

I have a bunch of NPC notes and lists of names etc., but during a game I generally wing it as far as actual stats and skills for the NPCs. I don't currently make full profiles with all the stats and skills for each NPC as this would take a long time - so these stats simply don't exist.

I tried having little mini-sheets with the names, basic stats, and motivation guides on them - but in practice, I could never find the one I wanted at the right time and I often found that even if I did find it, it didn't have the information I needed on it anyway.

I don't play a rules heavy system, so it doesn't matter that I don't have all the stats to hand - however I think that making them up on the fly all the time may lead to too many inconsistencies and lazy fudging. Also having NPCs with unexpected talents or weakensses would add interest, but would need to be kept track of somehow.

Is there an organisation system that suits this kind of thing?

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Depending on how good your handwriting is, I found that simple 3x5 notecards are extremely useful. Blank side is a picture or description, lined side is stats ( finding 5x3 cards is harder, but works better ). –  Phill.Zitt Oct 25 '12 at 20:27
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

One of the things I do is to keep track of generic professorial skills and a real world descriptive of how skilful said NPC is in that skill. The skill could be such as soldier, cleric, terrorist, spy, mathematician. The descriptives can range from poor to legendary. If during game play you need to add more skills, or refine one of them then a quick note is all you need.

For example: Bob the assassin has an assassin skill of good. He's good at all things that an assassin is supposed to be. Fred the bar keep may have a bar manager skill of poor (thus why he is always asking the PCs to help) but a performance skill of legendary (thus why the parties at his place are legend ... wait for it .. DARY!

Depending on how rule heavy you want to be, those skill could get more and more focused. But the more focused the skill, the more skills you have to write.

Note that those familiar with Over The Edge may recognise this system as extremely similar and they would be right.

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+1 Blagging things is a valuable GM still and unless it's combat I've generally found that keeping just general notes like these adequate; for many systems a few points higher or lower don't make that much of a difference anyway –  Rob Oct 26 '12 at 12:05
This is a good idea - architypes and exceptions might be the way to go - so as far as Skills go, Bob: just needs "Good Assassin" and maybe "Terrible Cook" and then any time I need to know more, just note it on. That way I keep track of it... –  Tyco Kaine Oct 26 '12 at 12:48
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For a similar problem I went with a simple NPC generator I wrote for my PC, and had it print out simplified character sheet with scores and a couple of randomly generated traits, like odd hobby, or knowledge of a foreign language and so on. I also added a sort of "personality traits" list inspired by Pendragon, so I could roll for how much thrifty or generous she could be, if needed... or see how he would react to danger, or sexual bribes etc.

Then the results went in a binder divided broad category... i.e. "professional", "thugs", "police officers". If the PCs went to see a doctor, I would just pick up the first sheet from the "professional" section, add a couple notes to it (names were randomly generated, too) like which part of the city they would operate, or maybe adding notes more relevant to the specific profession... i.e. if I was looking for an Astronomer, I would get one from the "Scientist" file, and replace "main science skill #1" with "Astronomy" (the actual level in the skill was random, so I could have pretty good scientists, fakers, etc.)

So it wasn't so far away from the Over the Edge suggestion above, it was just that I had "wildcard skills" pre-rolled, along with personality traits and hobby, and could add a bit of relevant details on the fly, directly when the NPC came in play. Then I would move the "personalized" character sheet to the actual NPC binder. If this specific person gained importance I would fill in the missing details later. But for most cases it was more than enough (especially in the case of thugs, mooks and criminals).

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Care to share a link to the software? –  Sardathrion Oct 30 '12 at 7:53
Not really, sorry. It was in Applesoft Basic (Apple ][, probably early 90's)... I haven't it anymore, but writing something in Python or Perl shouldn't be a big chore. If you want to discuss please drop me a line throught my website (cited in the profile). –  p.marino Oct 30 '12 at 10:05
No worries, I was just wondering how different from mine it would be. –  Sardathrion Oct 30 '12 at 10:12
I think that the main difference was the Pendragon-inspired personality traits. Here is a reference if you or someone else is interested: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ... I believe that for NPCs these are a good model. –  p.marino Oct 30 '12 at 10:28
No, I am not. I am using the Jung ones. –  Sardathrion Oct 30 '12 at 10:32
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