Things You Can Do When the Party Hates Your NPC

Yesterday, I talked about situations in which the party hates an NPC you need them not to hate, and how not to make it worse. Today, I’m going to look at the positive side—ways to actively try to get the NPC back into the party’s good graces.

If it was something they did, admit error. Yes, sometimes it seems like it’s a stretch character-wise for the NPC to do this; yes, it might be taken as a sign of weakness rather than humility. On the other hand, if the PCs are reasonable people (it’s more common than you think!), a little bit of humility can go a long way.

Balance the role that requires the party to keep them around with keeping them from stealing everyone else’s spotlight. Yes, having a reason why the NPC has to be present does increase the likelihood that the party keeps the NPC around. On the other hand, if the NPC has to strike the final blow in such and such a fight, or is otherwise required in ways that one normally associates with the hero of a story, that’s not going to go over well. It’s better to give them more of a support role—buffing, exposition, drawing enemy fire (though if you’re going to do that, keep the melodrama to a minimum and make it just a thing the character does), hanging out and designing items for people, that sort of thing—and to make them, if not willing to help in general, than at least possessed of a strong enough sense of duty to help out in a pinch.

Give them a C-plot character arc. Character arcing is important, since that lets the character move away from whatever characteristic(s) got the group irritated with him in the first place. On the other hand, the NPC’s arc can’t dominate the story; that’s part of what causes problems with NPCs in the first place. It’s better to just have it quietly changing in the background, particularly in response to things the characters do—or to have new details incidentally coming out that potentially increase the character’s sympathy without shoving it down the PCs’ throat.

Make sure they need the party at least as much as the party means them. They shouldn’t be the Load, but you don’t want them capable of doing everything without the party either—for one thing, that’s verging into obnoxious competence, and for another, traits like gratitude and admiration are really good for softening up an initially hostile PC.

Give them one quality the group thinks is pretty cool in an NPC, then follow two basic rules with it: don’t rub it in the group’s faces, and do use it for the group’s benefit.

Taking these steps, and not doing any of yesterday’s actions, may not guarantee that the group eventually warms up to your NPC, but it will certainly help.

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