Most Memorable NPC?
Sit back and let me tell you the story of Sam Sanders.
I used to run Spycraft a lot. I ran it at conventions for AEG and later Crafty Games. I took over as an emergency GM when one of theirs bailed and I ran through power cuts at GenCon UK. So Spycraft and me were tight.
I ran a campaign with my group where I gave them underlings. A training scenario on a remote island was compromised by supervillains, so the spies came in and rescued whoever they could. There was one spy per player, all tuned to get on really well or really badly with their corresponding player character. I admit, after all these years I forget the names of two of them. One was ‘Seagull’, a young woman who filled the role of group mechanic which the group didn’t really have outside of their driver. Then ‘Wild Ferret’, aka Sam Sanders. He was loud, brash and somehow supposed to be super stealthy. He was incredibly rubbish as a stealth guy, being basically The Todd from Scrubs but as a ninja. He was loudly boasting about his excellence and demanding that people high five him for a job well done which often wasn’t.
The group loved Sam. Players luckily often love a rubbish NPC, as long as they’re endearing to the right level. The rookies went on a couple of missions with the group and were parceled out to other teams so I didn’t have as many NPCs to deal with. Seagull was in the spy team who were friendly rivals with the group, Sam of course was with the players.
Then there was the party. This billionaire madman was doing twisted experiments on people under the guise of environmentalism. The rookie team had been assembled for their first real mission and gone missing, so the group had to rescue them. Even worse, there was a message that one of them was a spy.
The players infiltrated the billionaire’s manor during a party, finding both Sam and Seagull in different parts of the building. They both declared the other a traitor and the group decided it was Seagull. One player, Alex, started trapping a room he was in and preparing to take Seagull down with a sniper rifle. That’s when Sam got a garrote out and choked Alex’s character nearly to death. Sam was the traitor. He killed the two NPCs whose names were lost to time, he killed Seagull and escaped with the billionaire’s weird tech.
The group chased him down a few times, but were rarely able to catch him. Sam was a master of disguise, often one step ahead and frustrating to the group without feeling cheap. His name wasn’t really even Sam Sanders, as the poor rookie had been murdered before the original training mission.
When Spycraft Second Edition came out I decided to try and run a ‘24’ style campaign with each session taking an hour of time in the game world. We didn’t manage to finish the game, but the group had a couple of fun encounters with Sam. They found him on a sinking aircraft carrier when they went to find out why it had been attacked by basically evil Iron Mans. They caught him after a long struggle and brought him in despite Alex’s desperation to kill him before he got away or did something awful.
When Sam was brought into the base, Alex even had his character split off from the rest and try to shoot Sam in a hallway on the way to his cell. It was a brilliant dramatic moment and caused his character’s brief imprisonment.
If I’d have continued, I was going to see whether I could have Sam somehow become the leader of the spy organisation, at least briefly. I had ideas, although I don’t quite recall them anymore. I also wanted to kill him, as NPCs should be second to the cast, ultimately.
I’ve had fun with Sam ever since. I love re-using some NPCs to give my players an idea of what a person’s about, like the re-use of actors in American Horror Story. Sometimes they’ll play against type as well, just to keep things fresh. Sam’s been a villain a few times, often someone good at disguises (he was even in 7th Sea recently as a conman pretending to be a priest, although no one found his real name out). In Amnesiac City he was a reporter who read out the news in a dystopian world, but nothing more. He fills his role and even though none of the players who first met him are playing anymore, his legacy lives on.