Playing Multiple Characters & Using NPCs

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Returned from the Void
Original poster
Invitation Status
Looking for partners
Posting Speed
One post per day, 1-3 posts per week, One post per week
Writing Levels
Intermediate, Adept, Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
No Preferences
Urban Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Quest, Sci-Fi, Time Travel and World Hopping, Steampunk, Action/Adventure, Modern Drama, Mystery, Slice of Life, Romance, and many more.
Why should I Care?
Most roleplays will eventually require the inclusion of characters other than the Player Characters.

  • Some players start with two (sometimes more!) characters
    • This is sometimes called Doubling or Multi-playing
  • Some GMs have a store of NPCs which they use throughout the roleplay
    • Some GMs let the players control or introduce NPCs, others prefer exclusive control over them
  • Sometimes the story needs something the characters cannot or should not do.
    • This can be as simple as a teacher dismissing a class, or as complex as a double-agent joining the team
How much work will the extra character(s) be?
It really depends, and it's hard to predict! But I will say that if a roleplay is fun, then it's never 'work' no matter how many characters you end up playing.

Sometimes new characters stick around only long enough to do what they need to do (such as tell the students class is dismissed, approve/disapprove of a player character's new boy/girlfriend, or give the player characters a quest or motivation of some kind) and others stick around in the long term, becoming full-fledged main characters!

Most NPCs lead very short lives; appearing only briefly and not usually requiring much description other than their role in the scene (ie: the teacher, the peasant, the bully, the guard). These characters can still be used to impact the story and the player characters, however, and giving thought into how they can do that can make for a much more rewarding scene
  • A comment - conscious or offhand - from an NPC could brush on a character's insecurity or raw nerve, or alternately could further inflate the ego of a cocky character

  • an NPC can relay valuable story information if approached correctly

  • NPCs may offer "mini-quests" or "side-plots" which can serve as distractions, detours, or plot twists

However, even characters who were meant only to deliver a line of dialogue and then disappear can turn into surprisingly important parts of the story, so it's a good idea to give some thought and depth even to the NPCs of your role-plays. Give them a personality and some interests, otherwise you may discover that all of your NPCs kind of sound like the same person switching hats.
  • You may create a character sheet for each one, and add onto it as the character expands.
    • In roleplays with a large cast (including NPCs) it may be handy to record who has met who, when, and how often, as well. The inn-keeper may turn from a simple NPC into a trusted friend given enough interaction.
  • You may make the new character Shared, that is, a character that the other players (or in a one x one, your partner) may also control. It's good to keep track of the established info in these cases, and don't be surprise if the character develops differently than you had imagined in the beginning!
    • You can do this through a character sheet that all users can update as things come along, or simply by communicating effectively about the character in the OOC
  • You may end up having more fun than you thought with a character who was meant to be temporary. In these cases it is helpful to leave room in their role and the story for them to come back if it is useful or desired
    • I.e: leave some elements of their character blank so that they can come back later ("hey, what if X went to the same school as our characters?")
It never hurts to leave yourself some room for potential growth; you never know where a roleplay will take you, or your characters!

What do I do once they're in?
Mechanically, there are different ways that people organize their posts when they are using two or more characters:
  • Some people write the second character's part separately
    • "Everyone, this is Sarah" Jeff said, holding her hand as they entered the room. He swallowed, and hoped he looked steadier than he felt as he waited for his family to speak.
      Sarah looked around as Jeff introduced her. She smiled and hoped she made a good impression as she felt the eyes of his family on her. She squeezed Jeff's hand for comfort and wished she'd picked a more conservative outfit as she met the gaze of his strict-looking mother.
  • Some integrate it within their posts
    • "Everyone, this is Sarah" Jeff said, holding her hand as they entered the room. Sarah squeezed it, feeling just as nervous as he did as she felt his family visually assessing her, and they both waited for someone to speak.
  • Some people use colour codes to separate the actions and voices of different characters
    • "It's nice to meet you, Sarah" said Liz, standing and offering a handshake.
      "We've heard a lot about you." Myra added, mischievously, from the couch, only grinning when Liz cast a quick glare over her shoulder.
  • Some people include a new Character Sheet (CS) when introducing a new character
    • I feel like you don't really need an example to imagine how this would look.

There are many more styles to manage multiple characters in a post; try to find one that works for you.

So go forth, young Iwakuians, and play with ALL OF THE CHARACTERS!

Here's a sweet challenge to help you practice introducing additional characters!
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