Today, I will put a spotlight on Insta-NPCs #1: Motivation, Attitude, and Appearance by Moebius Adventures. This PDF product is a „GM helper“ consisting of three tables (Motivation, Attitude and Appearance) each containing 20 to 100 (“Appearance”) key words meant to be rolled-up randomly in order to provide a starting point and inspiration for your next NPC.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Right. I have to say, among all the products I bought at drivethrurpg.com it is the PDF I have used the most so far. It helps to break up your „set of mind“ by throwing in some fresh (and perhaps unexpected) input to work with when generating an NPC. Personally, I have used it for “lackey NPC” in modern day vampire games as well as for generating enforcers, civilians and gang members as I ran “Desolation of the Dead” (DarkHeresy). Basically, I tend tol use it whenever I haven´t made up my mind about an NPC I assume my players will interact with a bit. The entries are flexible enough to fit into about every game, and to keep things different I usually roll two to three times on the “Appearance” table.
The best part of the product is the “Motivation” table, as it sets the tone for the encounter and paves the road for the social interaction between the PC and this NPC. Let´s for example assume that you are preparing a (security or police) officer that is going to check the characters when they REALLY don´t want this to happen but have good reason not to just pull out a gun and shoot the guy. The motivation of the guy could have been “Money”, which turns him into the stereotypical movie-cop that is open for bribes. Another motivation on the table is “Power” which could be interpreted as a cop that just gets off on having people forced to obey him, one who will let the PC off the hook after a while if they show respect and act in a strict “yes, sir” kind of way. But, the result could have been “Amusement”, too. What does that make out of the encounter? Well… if the characters act nice and smart, perhaps being a bit chatty, their papers will only be given a glance and if they have been stopped for some minor wrongdoing, they will just be given a warning.
The only damper that this (early) product of Moebius Adventures has for me is that it does not have all the tables on one page. This approach was incorporated in later products of publisher and is a feature that DOES make a difference if used for inspiration during a game session. While having to shuffle with two sheets of paper is only a minor distraction, it is one that does not have to be. That being said, the product IS good for „mid-session improvisation“ since the tables and the entries are printed large enough for ease of use and the simple concept behind them allows the mind to focus on creativity (instead of „tool handling“).
THUMBS UP for this product. If you are a GM that works with random tables when you brew something up, I advise you to give it a shot and consider buying it.