What if any NPC, or vaguely personifiable non-player element, in an RPG, could be represented by a player?
Like, you press a button on your phone and a dude scurries in ready to play the role you need filled.
So the PCs are slogging through the mud fields outside Mudville. They're looking for information about the evil wizard Katazang. They see a mud farmer, farming mud. They approach him. You push your button. A random guy runs into the room. You hand him a piece of paper. It says your name is Dirtsly. You are a mud farmer. Most of your livestock is dead because harvests have been bad the last few years. You spend most of your time dreaming of making love to a princess you saw a semi-incompetent etching of that one time you got to look at a book. How you feel about adventurers and just about anything else is your call.
You tell him, "four of heavily armed adventurers come up to you. What do you guys look like?"
WIZARD: "Well, we're mostly caked in mud."
THIEF: "I'm hiding in the mud. Do I have to roll?"
DM: "No, you don't. Okay, you only see three adventurers."
MUD FARMER: "I'm pretty good with mud."
YOU: "Okay, fair. Thief, roll Hide in Shadows."
THIEF: "I make it."
DM: "Three adventurers."
FIGHTER: "I have three swords and I'm holding two of them. I have huge battlescars everywhere. My sword occasionally screams profanity. It's gnarly and reddish brown."
WIZARD: "I'm missing both my eyes but one of them is on a necklace I'm wearing. There are four ioun stones circling my head. Parts of my robes are missing and sometimes you can see my dong."
CLERIC: "I'm holding a holy symbol of the Sky Lord. My armour is dented."
MUD FARMER: "What are you doing hanging out with these guys? The Sky Lord is supposed to be righteous and orderly and they seem terrible."
CLERIC: "Frankly I'm not sure. I think I'm having a crisis of faith."
The fighter starts talking in that fucking tone of voice he uses when he's getting bored and wants to keep the game moving.
FIGHTER: "Er, hail mud farmer! We are adventurers seeking to purge this land of the foul influence of the wizard Katazang! Do you know of his whereabouts?"
MUD FARMER: "Do I?"
DM: [Hands him a paper saying northish, you're not really sure. He's not nearly as troublesome as these recent crop failures.]
MUD FARMER: "You schmucks! Jerks like you once stayed at my farm! Fucking adventurers! They drank the place dry, and when I woke up they were gone, my nephew was unconscious and bleeding everywhere, and two of my chickens were gone!"
FIGHTER: "That wasn't us."
WIZARD: "Could have been us. Don't pretend that doesn't sound like something we've done."
FIGHTER: "We've never done it here, though."
THIEF: "I'm still hiding in the mud, right?"
MUD FARMER: "Get a job!"
Not sure why I'm dragging out this example besides that I'm having fun. Point being instead of making a reaction roll you bring in another player, tell them their motivation, and let them figure out the rest.
Does this work well in actual play? No, it's pretty much impossible.
I'm gonna keep going anyway,
So say the fighter later fails his save vs. disease. Instead of figuring out what fucking interval to ask for saving throws to determine how the disease progresses, you bring in someone to roleplay the disease. You give them a goddamn stat sheet and tell them they wind if they kill the fighter. The fighter's trying to attack a three-headed ogre, the disease rolls to give him a coughing fit at the worst possible time. You could also personify like a wizard's spells to determine what happens when he misfires. Like, "you are an ethereal being of Pure Sleep who was pulled out of his native plane to be trapped for the past four hours in a Wizard's brain. He just messed up the words to release you in a controlled fashion and now you have about ten seconds in the Material Plane in which to do what you want before you zap back to your place of origin. What do you do?"
Or. The old cleric dies but that player is one of those players and rolls up a new cleric. This one worships Great Grandmother Winter. So you bring in someone to play Great Grandmother Winter, and you tell her what level of existence she operates at and what kind of cosmic struggle she's embroiled in this millenium and ask her how she's dealing with it. And then you interrupt her answer mid-sentence to tell her some asshole she's barely heard of (he's 1st level. There are so many of those...) is praying at the top of his lungs at her.
GREAT GRANDMOTHER WINTER: "What do you want?"
NEW CLERIC: "Oh Great Grandmother Winter, Eternal Queen of the Wailing Winds, Mistress of the-"
GREAT GRANDMOTHER WINTER: "Can you make it quick? Cthulhu's in the middle of pulling some shit."
NEW CLERIC: "Can you heal the thief?"
GREAT GRANDMOTHER WINTER: "Heal the thief? What is he stealing Loki's amulet of universal mischief?"
NEW CLERIC: "No, we pissed off the town guards when he hit them because the Fighter doesn't want to pay his tab at the inn and so he tried to sleep with the innkeeper's wife and she called the guards."
GREAT GRANDMOTHER WINTER: "Are you fucking kidding? I send an ice storm after him."
DM: "For how long?"
GREAT GRANDMOTHER WINTER: "Forever."
JOESKY TAX: DIE-DROP GOBLIN LAIR GENERATOR
(General idea and spirit of the thing inspired by / shamelessly lifted from Zak.)
Roll 1d10. Then die drop on a blank sheet of paper from the table below, cumulatively. Each result corresponds to an entry on the Rooms table.
POPULATION = 4d10 x number of dice rolled
Figure out the connections and hallways for yourself, I ain't yo mama. Alternatively, just use like donjon and key the rooms according to the table below.
- Filthy quarters
- Guard post
- Filth pool
- Animal harem (full of hybrids) (NOTE: In my game, goblins can interbreed with virtually anything in the animal kingdom. Also compatibly-sized insects, not sure what kingdom those are in. Also, some fungus. In your game this can also be a normal harem, a night club, a dining hall, or a ball pit, depending on your sensibilities.)
- Treasure room
- Pit trap
- Shrine (generate a god - roll on these tables or just click here)
- Larder (lots of actual lard)
- Secret passage (30% chance it's trapped)
- Dungeon (slaves/prisoners)
- Kitchen (it's gnarly, these idiots have no clue how to cook)
- Big guardian (huge animal or ogre)
- Fungus farm (25% chance it's out of control)
- Lavish leader's quarters
- Maze (20% chance there's 1d4 goblins lost in here.)
- Vermin room (keeping an environment full of disease is actually a fairly effective goblin defense tactic)
- Crazy tactical gadgets (see subtable)
- Goblin magic room (see subtable)
(In addition, each lair will contain a central chamber or trench)
Crazy tactical gadgets (d10)
- Grappling Harpoons
- Machine guns
- Bombs (of the suicide variety)
- Goblin cannon
- Rocket packs (2-in-6 chance of exploding)
- Spike balls (like hamster balls but with spikes, manned by 1d6 goblins)
- Huge drill
- Spring-shoes (these are extremely dangerous for absolutely everyone involved)
- Tank (no gunpowder. it's all goblin-powered)
Goblin Magic (d4)
- Crazy animate food
- An actual wizard (gets 1d4 made-up magic effects, each usable once per day)
- Terrible summoning chamber (40% chance the goblins are in the middle of summoning something right now. 75% chance it goes horribly wrong even without player intervention.)
- Hell-gate (opened by accident, room carefully sealed up, full of demons)
Piratey Lair Theme (This is just to tell one goblin tribe apart from the next.)
- They all dress like pirates
- Wizards (none of them are actually wizards, they make fun of them constantly)
- Wear metal scraps
- Wear giant mushroom caps
- Wear ghost costumes (think it makes them invisible)