Impractical Applications (Talking to Myself)

(Procedural note: I am out of state for my younger sister’s college graduation. As this involves a great deal of tiring travel time, from tomorrow’s post to next Saturday’s Imprac all posts this coming week will be reruns. New posts will resume next Sunday night.)

I talked this week about the dos and don’ts of conversations between NPCs, and how to keep them from making the players feel completely sidelined, bored, or worse, both.

My impetus for the posts was, logically enough, seeing it done wrong—and that got me somewhat concerned. Talking to myself is something of an inevitability, after all—my cast list is enormous, and my group keeps a small squadron worth of satellite NPCs. But I’d remembered having scenes like that, and it hadn’t gone bad, really. I’d done it—for half an hour, scarily enough. It’d come across decently well, if I was to judge from the responses of my players. What worked?

My first advantage was a combination of two factors. One, my format—I run purely by instant messenger, so people don’t have to give me their undivided attention for the exact full duration of the conversation in order to get the full effect of what the NPCs are saying, and people can hold full conversations in the OOC, and privately with each other, without anyone breaking anyone else’s concentration. They were active in the OOC, and almost definitely multitasking beyond that—and hey, if it’d been a conversation between anything less than two NPCs, I probably would have been multitasking as well. The other factor was that I’m a fast typist—I might lag from not being sure what to say, but not from taking the time to type it.

Another useful factor was that the conversationalists in question were Olathe and Kiara, both of whom the group is quite fond of, and that the conversation came up as Kiara’s attempt to defend a deal the group had made to Olathe and to convince Olathe that of the two of them, Kiara would be the one who according to the deal would be engaging in an unreasonably dangerous conversation. (Kiara did most of the talking. Olathe used very few words and a small amount of body language to maximum effect. The contextual narration had a few incidental bits of one-liner narration, to try to keep things interesting, and pretty much all of it doubled as character development.

Another major advantage was that this flowed naturally from a conversation the group was having involving both of the NPCs in question—it just happened that at this point Kiara had a point to make and everyone else was too afraid of getting Olathe’s full attention to want to interrupt. (This wasn’t the precise explanation they gave me for why we’d gone about half an hour with only one post in the IC that wasn’t me, but it was pretty close when reading between the lines.)

Last, it probably didn’t hurt that I apologized early and often in the OOC while choosing exact phrasings/giving the players a turn to pipe up or not. It’s a lot easier not to be frustrated with someone hogging the stage when it’s clear that they didn’t intend to hog the stage.

1 comment

  1. Shinali says:

    I don’t remember it being half an hour. I sort of view those moments as being like the “movies” in video games, except you *can* interrupt if you want to. Notably Samar is more afraid of making Olathe angry than of battling BBEGs. Seriously. She grew up learning how to placate powerful folks, and Olathe runs by somewhat different rules from then, so she let the locals handle it, while making sure she had a clear path to the door if things went south. [this description is hilarious in light of her being a "Joybringer"] I enjoyed seeing them talk, and i was so looking forward to the convo I even made a comic about it.

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