Nik Naks 2
Nik Naks are extra ingredients that can be added to any gaming campaign. These won't be found in the Player's Handbook... they're homegrown. This article, a followup to the well received "Nik Naks", includes three new additions: "Played By", "Quote of the Night", and "The Toss Game".
As a refresher... Nik Naks are extra ingredients that can be added to any gaming campaign. These won't be found in the Player's Handbook. They're homegrown. I've posted one article regarding some Nik Naks my group uses. Here are some more.
#5: Played By
There are few games that don't have NPCs in them. In fact, it's a gaming bylaw that NPCs must exist. If you are a GM for any length of time, there's a good chance your NPCs start to become redundant. You play them by archetypes. There's the big, dumb guy. There's the skittish sneaky guy. And so on.
Odds are one or more of your players will start to become confused by the repetitive archetypes. If I say "we must kill the lich" in my big, dumb guy voice... one of my players are bound to raise his hand and ask "wait... which big dumb guy said that?"
I have no doubt in my mind the fake-out would have been less effective had Juda been more generic.
Crafting a good NPC takes a lot of work, and maybe that's a topic for another article. But, a simple tool to make each NPC more recognizable is to use the Played By approach. Played By works like a dramatis persona: you have a list of names for the NPCs. For each NPC, you have the actor/actress who would most likely play that character. As a GM, you try and emulate that actor/actress to help make the associated NPC more recognizable and distinguished.
For example, we recently had an NPC in our games named Drake. Drake was a fruit loop with a quirky voice and looked like a wet rat. We decided Drake should be played by Bruce Dern (watch The King of Marvin Gardens, if you haven't already). The next game I decided Drake was going to pipe up and say something. Rather than use my generic quirky NPC voice, I went for an effect that resembled Bruce Dern. The players got it, instantly. They knew I was speaking the part of Drake.
Thus, Played By also reduces the amount of clarification a GM has to do. Rather than go through the belabored motion of saying "Okay, Drake says..." I can just start talking like Bruce Dern and the players respond without extra overhead.
You can also use Played By to throw your players for a loop. I once had an NPC running around named Juda, who looked like Charlton Heston. Juda hung out with the players for a number of games, but was eventually revealed to be a spy for the demon lord, Pazuzu. Everyone was shocked... after all, nobody expected Juda/Charlton Heston to be a servant of the demonic forces. I have no doubt in my mind the fake-out would have been less effective had Juda been more generic.
Played By is easy to do. If used properly, it can reduce some GM workload. And, it helps make each NPC more unique.
#6: Quote of the Night
Quote of the Night is a simple concept. The GM, or maybe one of the players, keeps track of the more memorable quotes from the gaming session. These can be in character quotes or just really good jokes told by one of the players.
After the game is over the person recording the quotes sends them to the group via email. Let me tell ya, it's a great thing to come to work the day after a fun game and giggle in my cubicle over some of the things that were said the previous night.
Quote of the Night doesn't directly enhance the game itself, but it keeps the creative juices flowing and it does help chronicle the events of the game. It works better if one of the players records the quotes. One, it keeps the workload off of the GM. Two, it offers a different POV than the GM. In my previous Nik Nak article, I mentioned I send a recap of the game via email. If I also sent the Quote of the Night, then the group would be getting everything from only my perspective. Having a player record the Quote of the Night helps the group see the game from different angles. It's more valuable than what one might think.
#7: The Toss Game
If any of my players read this, they're liable to come murder me. But, another thing we do to keep Game Night fun and enjoyable is the Toss Game.
...a planet where apes evolved from tossing?
When you gotta go, you have to announce you've gotta go, but you gotta say a quote from a movie or TV show before you do it. Not only do you have to have to say the quote, but you have to modify the quote so it now pertains to urination. For example, in Planet of the Apes, Chuck says "a planet where apes evolved from man?" In the Toss Game, the quote becomes "a planet where apes evolved from tossing?" Once the Toss Quote has been made, one then has permission to use the facilities.
There are variations on the Toss Game. One night, we only did quotes from David Lynch's Dune. On another night, we were only allowed to quote things that had been said by Brian Blessed. Feel free to make your own rules.
What's the point of the Toss Game? Well, none really, other than it's another additive to help make the night more enjoyable for all. It's a friendly competition and outlet for outbursts one might not make in character. And, usually, it's amusing; anything that's amusing usually helps keep the game flowing and fun.
Nik Naks... ya gotta love them.