A little while back, I played in a Fantasy Flights Star Wars role-playing campaign for a couple of months. During our sessions, one of the other players harped on a decision my character made near the start of the campaign. It became sort of a running joke about my character’s “diplomatic” skills. As a game master the mere fact the moment was brought up so often is a good sign to me. It indicates the scene was memorable even if it wasn’t beneficial to the party. In the player seat the jabs did make me question if my choice was a reasonable response to the situation. Should I have had my character act differently? Would my character have acted differently? I don’t think so but the series of exchanges got me thinking about character decisions,both PC and NPC, and how believable those decision should be.
Our unit was a group of rebel “spies.” I use the term spy VERY loosely. The team was not ideal for spying on the Empire: a Mandalorian force user in full combat armor, an explosives expert Wookie, a pyromaniac Klatooinian activist for droid’s rights, a medical droid modified for super effective unarmed combat, and my character, Maxir, a human ex-mercenary turned rebel solider. Maxir was basically Marv from Sin City; a brick of a man with close to the same shinning personality.
During a mission, we found ourselves in the lower areas of a space station and stumbled across a small slum. The area was obviously poor and forgotten but maybe they could give us directions to our objective. As we entered the slum the GM described the shacks and pointed out an individual who was directly ahead glaring at us. A male Twi’lek wearing a wide brimmed hat who was missing a head tail and a tribal tattoo on his face. Not missing an opportunity, my character spoke up and said, “Out of the way, Squiggly Face!” This comment incited my new Twi’lek friend to announce he was a captain of some kind. He called for a few minions and a fight broke out. We handled it easily and Squiggly Face escaped with a whirl of his cape. Not kidding, Captain Squiggly Face vanished by waving his cape around. The party attributes the later misinformation and almost being blown up by a thermal detonator to Squiggly Face.
I liked Squiggly Face. He was a recurring, mustache twirling villain. He’d show up with a big speech and an easily handled problem. He would vanish before we could catch him. He was ridiculously campy and made me roll my eyes more than once. I was a little disappointed when we finally caught him and Maxir just killed him.
I like to think my character interacted with the NPC appropriately per his gruff and rude personality. Definitely not the best way to ingratiate myself with the locals but he wasn’t the kind of person to make friends and honestly didn’t do most of the talking. A fellow player commented, “You wouldn’t walk into the ghetto and just start insulting people.” They were right, the actually me wouldn’t. I’m not disrespectful to strangers. My character on the other hand was a bit of a bastard.
On the other side of the exchange, did Squiggly Face act appropriately? Five fully armored individuals carrying heavy fire power walk into your neighborhood and insult you. How do you respond? After a few meetings with Squiggly Face, I figured he must have a megalomaniac complex. So maybe his openly violent response to my insult was very in character for him.
Decisions a character makes, both as a PC and NPC, are important. Not all those decisions need to be beneficial. People in real life and in stories make bad decisions all the time. The decisions display a character’s personally, they can cause or avoid conflict, or just add interesting flavor to the game.