As per Uncle Sporky’s suggestion, a thread to discuss what makes a prize-winning NPC.
Here’s a rapid-fire run down of the last 5 XYZZY Awards Best Individual NPCs:
Grimloft, in Cryptozookeeper, by Rob Sherwin
All NPCs in CZK are talked to in conversation trees, and the chief virtue is the writing that can shine in structured talk-systems.
Dr Sliss, in Rogue of the Multiverse, by CEJ Pacian
Pacian’s strong prose and witty characterisation are to credit for this NPC’s win.
Snow White, in Alabaster, by everyone and their dog
Snow White’s conversation system uses a never-released ask-tell/talk about style system with contextual hints on what to ask next. It marries the virtues of conversation trees and more traditional conversation. The writing is generally strong and there are many directions the conversation can go in.
Violet, in Violet, by Jeremy Freese
Violet isn’t actually an NPC that you can directly interact with, rather she’s an imagined voice who comments on everything you do.
The gnome, in Lost Pig, by Admiral Jota as “Grunk”
The conversation is an ask/tell system: the gnome has a huge range of responses and he has a series of actions that he performs independent of the player, giving the impression of a life beyond what you see.
It doesn’t matter what kind of conversation system you use so long as your NPC is richly characterised and the writing is strong.