A few days back, Coyote wrote on his blog about intra-party conflict. Conflict among real people, sitting around a table doing live gaming. It’s not one of the more fun parts of gaming, as I know from experience. And it’s worse when it shows up in a computer RPG.

That was one reason I didn’t much care for Baldur’s Gate. All the party members were “pick-up NPCs”, and the wrong mix could easily lead to big trouble. Aside from that, with the exception of Imoen, there wasn’t one of those NPCs I liked or would want to game with in a live RPG.

Further, it seems that NPC party members these days are just full of angst and misery. Their petty little problems are more important than hunting down Foozle and saving the world.

Sure, they’ll come along and help, but you have to do something for them first. Or if not right now, maybe a little later. No matter that you may have saved someone’s life; for some reason, you still have to do even more before that person will stick with you.

If live gaming had been that way, I’d never have stayed with it. Certainly, there were players who had a “dark secret” in their pasts, or some other problem. But it would be something that came out in play, craftily woven into the story by the DM.

Players, at least in my experience, didn’t go running around demanding assistance with some “problem” before they would join or stay with the party. And none of them – though some could be irritating at times – were as unpleasant as the typical NPC party member in a computer RPG.

Seeing as how game designers appear incapable of creating NPCs you’d want along with you for more than just a warm body to fill a slot and help out in fights, they might just as well stick to single-player products.

And I’ll just add that most of the arguments in my live groups were about what to do, rather than about personal matters. There were certainly dramatic moments during the sessions, but they didn’t come from the party being at each other’s throats. In computer games, as I said way back in It’s My Party, I’d rather have my own bunch I create myself. Life is much easier that way.

It’s My Party Whom I’ll Defy If I Want To