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My players love to interact with my NPCs, make friends, allies, enemies, make characters fall in love, etc. But I always end up with either bland NPCs that don't matter much to the game and get forgotten by me, or ones that become spotlight-stealing GMPCs — I'm having trouble making characters in the middle, that matter without them taking over. I haven't figured out how to make NPCs that are more than cannon fodder with bland and unchanging personalities, but less than full protagonists.

The campaign style I'm going for right now is the sort where there are lots of secondary characters in the protagonists' lives and sharing spotlight in battles. Some die, some live, some others get a fanclub. Making those kinds of "in between" or "just right" NPCs who are full of dynamic personality but still secondary is important for that campaign style to work.

How can I make dynamic but secondary NPCs, and how can I manage them over the course of a campaign so they stay that way, neither fading out nor taking over?

We're using Savage Worlds, but that probably doesn't matter since this doesn't really touch the mechanics.

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Define "handle" in this sentence: "I don't know how to handle them story-wise in the long run." That's not a sentence that contains meaning without access to your private thoughts, so you need to translate it into practical issues for us. Do you want to integrate them into scenes more often? Tie them to the PCs better? Figure out what they do when they're off-screen? Keep yourself interested in them longer? Track how they interact/feel about each other more? Generally create PCs that actually matter? (Don't be tempted to say, "yes, all that"; that is too many things for one question.) –  SevenSidedDie Aug 19 '14 at 4:06
Generally create PCs that actually matter –  Aldath Le'Carde Aug 19 '14 at 4:55
How does that overhaul look? –  SevenSidedDie Aug 19 '14 at 5:29
Not a full answer, but keep note-cards for personalities and similar things that you need to remember, and make them weaker than characters if they are designed to travel with them. –  Aviose Aug 19 '14 at 17:09

1 Answer 1

Savage Worlds is designed to make it easy to use allies in combat, so you'll find that it will work well for the sort of game you are wanting to run. It's a bit unclear from your question, but it sounds like you've got things under control mechanics-wise, but are now looking for advice story-wise.

Given that, I'd like to focus on one part from your question:

I wanna use my talent to make my players like my NPCs, however I wanna be able to handle this, since I always end up pushing other NPCs aside, forgetting they exist, or giving them backgrounds that I grow bored of quickly

It sounds to me like you enjoy using NPCs, but have trouble continuing to work them into the stories. I'd like to suggest a different approach: let the players or randomness help with them.

Let the Players Help With Them

Consider assigning the NPCs to players and let them develop them as they are interested. They ought to already be controlling NPCs in combat, so it's only a step away to having them develop them story-wise. You stated that one of your goals was to get the players to like the NPCs. Having them each be invested in developing an NPC is an instant way to get them to like them. This might be a follower, assistant, family member, or other important figure.

Of course, you can still have your say with them. Just because they are handled by the players doesn't mean you can't seize control of them.

You can go even farther by using Dramatic Interludes and having the players come up with an Interlude for their respective NPCs. This will help everyone discover what the victories, obstacles, loves, and desires are of each of these NPCs making them even deeper characters, without overburdening you as a GM.

Let Randomness Help With Them

One technique I've seen done is to write the names of NPCs and various information about them on index cards and then have a "deck" of characters. Then when you want some inspiration, draw an NPC and work them in for some way. Especially if you set aside those that are used and then reshuffle them once the deck is exhausted, you can ensure that everyone will get their turn to work into the story.

Consider Reducing the Secondary Cast Size

Although it can be interesting to have many supporting NPCs, be aware that each one you add is going to have the spotlight at some point. The more you have, the more you have to move the spotlight around, especially away from the main characters. You can mitigate this some by giving players some of the NPCs to develop because then the player is still in the spotlight, but especially if you'd like to keep some NPCs with you, you ought to be aware of how many is too many.

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