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3 Line NPCs
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/19/2015 12:32:07
http://dieheart.net/3-line-npcs-review/
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I’m always looking for tools to make my games run better. I’m still a fledgling GM and somehow my gaming group never wants me to run the games I like, so I’m mostly gaming online. I’ve only run 10 or so games, but I want to get better.
Having compelling NPCs is always nice to have. For me, there is the danger of falling back to clichés or boring NPCs on the fly. I’m more of an improv GM and hate heavy prep, but that also means I don’t have a whole cast of interesting characters available. But we all know that great NPCs/antagonists can really drive a story. So does 3 Line NPCs help?

What do you need to know?

3 Line NPCs (3LN) is a product by Johnn Four who runs the free roleplayingtips.com-newsletter. This is a really great resource and if you’re interested in how to enhance your games, you should sign up.
The book is a result of a community effort. Johnn created a method for detailing NPCs (the 3 Line NPC method, duh!) and collected entries by newsletter subscribers.
The book contains two main parts: the first deals with the method and other techniques on how to make NPCs better, the second has 450 entries for NPCs.

The PDF is available at Onebookshelf for USD $7.00 (approx. 6,30 €) at a discounted price.

I originally bought the PDF when it was released via another channel but Johnn also provided me with a free OBS-download coupon for reviewing purposes.

Content

The 3 Line NPC method and other tips

The first part of this work contains general advice on NPCs. First, there are some tips about how to utilize your NPCs, how to role-play them and how to create stat blocks on the fly. I like this, there are very neat ideas and good tips.

Then, the meat of the show: How to Make NPCs Fast With the 3 Line NPC Method. Johnn’s idea is golden if you like a simple and quick technique with a bullet-point style. That means that the NPCs are not very detailed, but you get nice snippets which you can easily look up in play. The suggested approach generally comes without stat blocks but if you want to make an important NPC, nobody is hindering you from adding stats. Generally, the technique is very good for “extras”: the whole lot of characters that NPCs encounter that add life to your game but are not the main focal point of your adventure.
The first line contains what the players can see (appearance and what they do at the moment), the second line is about what to portray (job, profession, personality) and the third line is to progress the story (plot hooks etc.).
I like how this method is short but also contains something that drives the story. This might be especially useful for sandbox-style-gaming. You need to give the players some way to acquire a quest or find out rumors but don’t want to introduce John the tavern barkeep for the 100th time?

This is not the end of the tips section, there are some more articles on how to get the most out of this method and also some idea on how to tie in Fate’s aspect system. Furthermore, the book contains 7 tables to come up with ideas: secrets, side plots, goals & motives, more verbose traits, fears, and occupations. Also included is a link container with links to several name generators.

Overall, I rate this section a 5/5. The tips are good, the method itself is very useful and the tables are a nice addon so you don’t need to dig around the internet.

450 NPCs

This is the cumulative list of 450 entries by the contributors. The most important thing: these are NPCs for a fantasy game world, assuming something like a D&D or Pathfinder fantasy setting. Some entries also have stat blocks like [LE Female Erinyes Rogue 4], containing an alignment, a class/occupation, and a level.
The quality of the entries and also the style varies due to different contributors. Some entries are short bullet-points and some are more verbose, even containing a line of conversation. I would have liked a more consistent style but that’s what you get when run a community contest.
There are definitely some interesting NPCs here and a lot you can mine for your (fantasy) campaign. You could just pick some for the next town the player characters visit and use them as-is or adjust them slightly. I can imagine choosing some of these when the players take an unexpected turn and you need to come up with something FAST.
Some of the NPCs are just for color and perhaps not that useful. For example, the human woodcarver whose hook is that he has a phobia of ducks. Others could kick off a whole adventure, for instance, the dwarf hermit who wants to open a gate to the “Other Side”.
It’s a pity that these example NPCs are for fantasy only. It would have been nice to have some submissions for sci-fi and modern generic.

For me, this is a 3.5-4/5 because it’s a good resource but only for fantasy and the quality of the entries vary.

Appearance

The PDF has 199 pages (including cover, legalese and table of contents). The PDF is bookmarked, the TOC is hyperlinked and web link are also clickable.
The product contains no art except the cover and is lay outed sparsely. But everything is good to read and the PDF also works well on a tablet.

A word about the competition

You can buy Masks: 1.000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game as a PDF for USD $16.95 (approx. 15,26 €). This product is a more professionally made resource from Engine Publishing, the guys behind the website Gnomestew.
The book comes with more detailed entries and is also divided into different sections for fantasy, sci-fi and modern, further distinguishing between neutrals, villains, and allies.
I find this product very useful for more important NPCs because the entries contain more information and more backstories and motivations. If you want to prep an adventure centered around NPCs, for example with Sly Flourish’s Lazy DM Method, this is pretty nice. However, for quickly looking up an NPC I found this a bit too “complete”. Of course, you can ignore stuff but because of all the prose this is a hefty tome as a paperback. For me, the 3LN is the faster way to staff my extras.
While the (cheaper) 3LN doesn’t replace Masks it is a useful addition and definitely a nice toolkit for a GM despite the fact that the example NPCs are not universally usable.

Short summary

- a great & universal method of creating broad-strokes NPCs, not so much for detailed antagonists etc.
- good tips for using and incorporating NPCs into your game
- useful tables and generators
- pre-made 450 NPCs for fantasy (not other genres) which vary in quality
- NPCs are not sorted in any way (villains, allies or something like that)
- especially useful for vanilla fantasy sandboxes D&D-style
- a 60-day-money-back promise by the author!
- only available as PDF, no print version
- good value for this price, makes prep easier and adds flavor to your game

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
3 Line NPCs
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650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Ronald G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/25/2015 18:22:11
Great freebie with hooks that should make your boring trips into town to buy supplies into adventures all their own! Add it to your cart.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
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650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Andrew J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/19/2015 12:35:30
This pack is exactly what it says - 650 ideas, each about a paragraph long, that can be used as a segway into an adventure. Each is unique, though a few are kind of similar. I always have trouble coming up with these kinds of things, but once I have a starting point, i have no problem with crafting out the rest of the adventure. If you operate in a similar manner, then it is worth picking up!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
100 Roadside Encounter Ideas
by Ben S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/12/2015 16:25:57
Good sampling of random roadside encounters. Glad I picked it up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
100 Roadside Encounter Ideas
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650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/18/2015 00:42:31
I'm a fan of urban fantasy encounters that can be easily thrown into any number of campaigns or OSR style games, Six hundred and Fifty Fantasy City Encounters is a free old school rpg encounter table that does exactly what it says on the tin. This is a great old school sixty four page encounter table and plot seed random sack of awesomeness waiting to be dropped onto your PC's and its free. This is a product with a myriad of incredible uses in a game waiting to happen. These encounter can easily be strung together into a sort of mission impossible encounter table sort of generator. Did I mention that this is a free product?
So you've had one of those weeks that hits you hard and you don't have time to really write out a brand new dungeon. Take this bad boy out and roll up a bunch of adventure encounters in under a half an hour of old school fun waiting for your PC's to blunder into. This generator can be used to generate encounters in neighborhoods, streets, etc. All of the action is placed right into the DM's hands and its a nice little adventure starter. This urban generator could also be used to generate a bunch of weird and unexpected post apocalyptic wasteland encounters as well. So this is a free product with a myriad of uses in retroclone or old school gaming. All in all I was pleasantly surprised with this little free download.
Eric F Swords and Stitchery blog.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
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100 Roadside Encounter Ideas
by alex f. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/25/2015 02:20:21
Was clean and simple. Just a list of quick ideas. Very quick ideas. I'm fairly sure most of them could used for some fun distraction.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
100 Roadside Encounter Ideas
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650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Red O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/23/2015 18:17:06
For the price this is awesome. 650 suggestions for adventure-hooks - even if not all of them are particularly inspired - is very good value, when comes at a price of 'absolutely free'. I'm hoping to run a city-based campaign soon and there are enough suggestions for plots and seeds and hooks contained here to start the ball rolling for many months to come I would think.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
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650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Michael J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/09/2015 12:19:38
While not all are good hooks dragging characters in, enough are there to give short side missions. And with a little work A can lead to B which leads to C... which could end up a full session or three to unravel.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
100 Roadside Encounter Ideas
by Michael H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/02/2014 19:17:53
This actually contains 200 encounters. Instead of rolling d100, roll d20+d10.

Often products of this sort are a couple of dozen entries of the tediously obvious variety. Not here. These are all interesting and sometimes fantastic, with good roleplay potential and plenty of room to improvise. Many are adventure seeds in disguise and could lead to themes or side treks that last for many sessions. Some just inject some fun chaos into the group, like adopting a kitten.

This has great value in a hex-crawl sandbox game. When GMing a sandbox, the constant improvisation can lead to repetition or burnout. These encounters are a great way to instantly inject some pizzazz and stimulate the GM's creativity. You could pick, but as a GM I like to roll and be surprised.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
100 Roadside Encounter Ideas
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650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/24/2014 21:49:33
While you can't beat the price, there are not 650 useful seeds, but more like half of that, maybe a fourth of that if you're looking for outright adventure seeds rather than a quick encounter in a city. The compiler should have been more ruthless in cutting out bad seeds.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
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650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Paul a. M. T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/31/2014 23:03:37
You're tired, you've had a hard week, and your gamers are going to be over in 30 minutes! Been there, done that? Guess what! This just be your lucky night! This book contains enough good ideas and just enough information to CYA without disrupting your campaign by bringing in extra stuff you don't need. It is also handy to have around when your gamers do the unexpected (yeah, like you never caught caught completely off guard!) and all of your prep work for the night's adventure just went out the window. It is written in the age of Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons 4.whatever but it is still generic enough that I have no trouble using it in my Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Campaign. (Yeah, that's right, AD&D! I'm 50 and still gaming with college kids.) I can't believe these guys are giving this thing away for free! Grab it while you can! I mean it! Now!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Matt A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/13/2013 15:08:27
I'm sorry, I know it's free, but "A bunch of hombres wander around looking for a waffle-house” is not an adventure hook.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Joshua P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/24/2013 21:27:16
This was very helpful. I sometimes find myself, as a GM, boggled by my players actions and in need of a method to bring them back to the main story-line without pulling a "You can't do that". This has given me much more freedom to let them go off track and still bring them back again.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM Mastery: Inns & Taverns Essentials
by Roger N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/14/2013 14:20:35
I purchased this thinking i would get a lot more use from it than I actually have. There is no denying it is well written and packed full of really useful stuff, however as a DM/Gamer of 30 years I tend to ad lib a lot of what this book is telling me about. I guess im perhaps not the target demographic. I think for new DMs etc this book could be invaluable just sadly not for me.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
GM Mastery: Inns & Taverns Essentials
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650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
by Steve D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2013 13:17:51
Very useful tool. My group loved the added texture. And you can't beat the price.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
650 Fantasy City Encounter Seeds & Hooks
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