It's on the right track, but it needs work. Its worthy goal is to guide how NPCs converse and react without falling into the rut of having all the characters sound and act the same.
The Vocal Quailty Table can be skipped. Variations in vocal quality are a good thing, but the random combinations of keywords from this table aren't inspiring. Suppose you roll up Throat, Jargon, and Child-Like. That's too arbitary. Instead, ask yourself how someone like this NPC would talk and skip the table.
The Dialogue Mood & Topic table is more promising.
Good elements of the Dialogue Mood & Topic table:
- I like the mix of response types. Each row has a common theme, with variations for the friendly, hesitant, and hostile columns. There's a row on generalities, a row that touches on character motivations, a row for commentary on the scene or conflict, and rows for the character's personality, virtues, and vices. That gives a good mix of things for an NPC to mention.
Not-so-good elements of the Dialogue Mood & Topic table:
- Despite the table's strengths, it can be disruptive to the mood and flow and unnecessarily time-consuming if you stop to make a series of dice rolls and table lookups - only to find out an NPC says, "Nice weather, huh?" or "Idiot."
- You can offset that disadvantage by pre-generating a few conversational things for each PC, but a) that could involve a lot of prep work for conversations that might never happen, and b) your prep work might not cover all the potential conversations anyway. Instead, you might need to hone your skills at improvised NPC dialogue instead of relying on table rolls.
- The product description says certain other generators by the same author are "required." They're not. In particular...
- The table cites the Fact Generator in case you need inspiration for a character making small talk. Do you really need inspiration for small talk? Just have the character state something minor and obvious about whatever's going on at the moment. Rolling up (for example) "Further" or "Manipulate" from the Fact Generator doesn't help.
- The table cites the Motivation Generator in case you need inspiration for an NPC discussing motivations. While you might want that inspiration, the table isn't "required" if you already have some character motivations in mind.
- It cites the "FRPG conflict or Plot Generator." If you're using those to generate situations, fine, go for it, but they're not required. The table has the NPC commenting on the scene or conflict, which works no matter how you came up with the situation.
- It cites the Character Generator for references to the character's personality, virtues, and vices. Again, the extra generator isn't required. You can still use this table no matter how you create your characters.
The Archetype Dialogue table is the most helpful piece.
Good elements of the Archetype Dialogue table:
- Whereas the Vocal Quality Table is completely arbitrary, this table is very much not arbitrary. It's not a random combination of disconnected elements. It's a unified set of guidelines on how nine different character archetypes might handle a conversation.
- Each column adds a useful element for each archetype. Which archetypes are more interested in taking action, or more interested in discussion? What are their likely goals? What are some typical things for them to say?
- The Pressured and Relaxed columns in particular are a nice touch. They offer a straightforward approach for altering a character's behavior in high-pressure or relaxed situations, namely, by temporarily using a different profile. For example, a Caregiver has a set of reactions, but in a high-pressure situation, the Caregiver temporarily becomes a Skeptic. In a relaxed situation, the Caregiver temporarily acts like a Lone Wolf. That's an interesting extra dynamic for character interaction.
- You could skip all the rest of the FRPG6 Dialogue Engine and just have the Archetype Dialogue table ready for quick glimpses during play. Assign each NPC an archetype, either in advance or on the spot, and glance at the Archetype Dialogue chart when you need a quick inspiration for how the NPC might react.
Not-so-good elements of the Archetype Dialogue table:
- The archetypes are listed without the descriptions you'd find in the Character Generator. That's a negative if you'd want the extra description (and if you weren't planning to use the Character Generator), but the archetype names are obvious enough in most cases. If some of the labels are less obvious to you, skip them. The Character Generator isn't required, as stated in the product description.