Well well well… Looks like we just discovered who put the hit out on Elf Princess. I just hope that partnering with such a dastardly destrier won’t tarnish Paladin’s reputation.

While I continue to be unreasonably amused by this comic’s horse/unicorn/elf love triangle, I can’t help but feel like it might not play out in quite the same way at the table. Very likely, the players in such a game would be totally ignorant of these backroom hired-ninja-assassin dealings. That’s because these goofy shenanigans would likely take place entirely behind a GM’s screen. I don’t think that has to be the case though.

I’m sure you’ve heard advice along these lines before. Make sure that your villains aren’t just reactive. Have them advance their schemes between sessions. NPCs’ lives don’t necessarily revolve around the heroes! That’s all well and good, but figuring out how to actually demonstrate such machinations at the table can be a tall order.

Today’s discussion is all about showing off your complex world, with its many moving parts. And to start the conversation, I’d like to suggest one tactic that I’ve enjoyed over the years. It’s something I think of as “the NPC cutscene.” Generally inserted as the intro or outro of a session, these cutscenes are just brief descriptions of NPC activities going on elsewhere in the world. The PCs might not have any way of knowing this information, but I find that players appreciate a bit of dramatic irony. For example:

Voices murmur in a darkened room. A thin trickle of light streams in through the door, and shadows dance across hooded faces. There are three things upon the table between the conspirators: a fat stack of golden coins, an image of the princess printed on finest vellum, and a dagger driven through its eye. A soft, malicious whinny can be heard from one corner. “Nothing,” says a feminine voice, “Can be permitted to stand between me and my beloved. Not even royalty.” 

So let’s get to it then. Have you ever used this “NPC cutscene” technique? How else do you go about foreshadowing your villains’ dastardly plans? Tell us all about those nefarious plots and conspiring scoundrels down in the comments!


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