Things Not to Do When the Party Hates Your NPC

They tell you in the real world that first impressions are everything. It’s even more the case with RPG characters, particularly the ones you want to keep around—and sometimes it’s just going to go wrong, and for whatever reason the entire party is going to decide that they loathe the character you’d wanted to pin your next plot hook on. At that point, you might be able to save the character—but only if you don’t do any of the following.

  • Tell them they’re wrong to hate him. Okay, yes, it’s important to you that the NPC not be an object of hatred because you’ve got a couple plot points pinned on him. But there are ways to go about things. Telling the PCs “No, this is a stupid reason to hate him” is likelier to make them hate him more for having your obvious favor than for whatever he did to offend them in the first place. (You know “Show don’t tell?” It is vital here. Absolutely vital.) And if his justification for whatever he did to make them doubt his finer qualities ends up implying that half the party are cowards? ….yeah, you’re not going to get anything done.
  • Pump up his reputation with other things that he has done. (Show don’t tell, again. This seems to be a common thread.) Honestly, they don’t like the NPC already; talking up improbable things that he is done is likelier to make him come across as a GM’s pet than convince them that he’s worth keeping around. And as with last point, if what he’s done is something that they don’t consider all that impressive, or actually goes against some point of their characterization (i.e. a victory of discipline as related to a couple of Chaotic characters), it’s not going to help.
  • Hijack their current favorite plan. I really shouldn’t need to say this, but if you’ve got a group that is enthused about something coming up, and suddenly that something coming up has to be for the benefit of a character they hate, they’re not going to be enthused anymore. Which is bad enough when they just give up on it, but even worse when you have to backtrack to try to get them re-interested, and by the time you’re done they’ve lost interest in the original plan.
  • Kill them. If you want the NPC to survive, “Try to kill them” is probably also something to avoid. The one thing worse than offending them by existing is starting the battle, because then they’re justified in retaliating with deadly force.
  • Push one or more PCs’ berserk buttons. The fastest way to make the hole the character is in deeper is to touch of one of the things that any PC—especially several at once—can’t stand. Ingratiating works a lot better than irritating.
  • Stay obviously emotionally invested. Seriously, unless you’re willing to slog the character through the long process of convincing the party that he’s not a waste of resources, you’re just going to find yourself butting heads with the players if you try to keep him around anyway. He’s not liked. Drop him and move on, and everyone’s lives will be easier.

The big thing to remember is that if the NPC needs to be kept around, forcing him on the party is the fastest way to ensure that’s not going to happen. It’s not going to work if it isn’t in some way there idea, and most of the above tactics will only serve to tick them off more.

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