Responses from a NPC; how little can I get away with?

I’m working on an Inform7 game and at one point have a NPC wandering a mansion. Let’s call them “Susie”. I have a fairly large table of responses for Susie about wider topics regarding the story/situation at hand, but have not included responses specific to each room Susie may be in at that moment. Also, Susie only appears after you solve a puzzle, and is only around until you solve a different puzzle that then dismisses her from the mansion.

So, for instance, when Susie is in the library and you ask her about books, she does not have a response. If you ask her something about the murder that occurred in the mansion, or the detective in the next room, she has a response.

How much does that bug you?

(i.e., should I spend the time to build out responses to those trivial things for a NPC who’s not around for very long, or shall I assume the player is ok with the NPC not understanding what the player is asking, despite that sometimes being illusion-shattering.)

Additional musing: maybe there’s some in-between where I can fashion a response table of vague acknowledgements so the Susie’s non-answer isn’t quite so bad. Like, the player asks Susie about books when they’re both in the library:

"Hmm, yeah, let's talk about that later for I have thoughts," Susie replies.

Have you played/made a game that does that kind of “error” NPC response well?

Well, it may perhaps harm the immersion, but it also helps the player to keep track of what’s important in the game. I’d say don’t add detail for its own sake, if it doesn’t serve the story.


A table of vague acknowledgements is both traditional and a good idea. You might also be able to write responses for “generic item in this room” (as distinct from “totally random topic”).

The important thing is to convey that this is, in fact, a generic response and not part of the story. You don’t want to accidentally mislead the player.

“Hmm, yeah, let’s talk about that later for I have thoughts,” Susie replies.

To me, this line conveys that I should ask Susie about the topic later when it’s more relevant! Tricky.


“Normally I’d love to talk more about that, but I think you should be focusing on the murder right now, hmm?”


I appreciate it when an npc has a non standard reply when asked about objects. I think it adds to the game. I’m not on Inform so I don’t know how to do this in Inform, but what I did when I modeled an object in my game was add an “ask” description to it that was printed when the npc was asked about the object.

You could even add more than one and randomly print one each time. Or add a counter for non critical objects that prints a final warning after x questions. Something like this:

> ask fred about books
“I’m not into reading that much”.

> fred, tell me about the books
“I’d love to discuss books with you but we have a mystery to solve”.

> ask fred about books
“Trust me on this one. You don’t need the books to solve the mystery”.

Another thing, I made sure that with the actions ask and tell, the noun was brought into scope first. You don’t want something like

> ask fred about the steel bars
You don’t see that here.

> *No Einstein, I know where they are but can’t wait till you show up there so they become in scope.

Finally, what to do when they ask about an object that is in the game but has not been discovered yet?

I have 2 approaches. If the object is not a key object for the game I print something like this

> ask fred about the water tap
“At this moment I have no recollection of such a thing”.

If it’s a critical object and it’s obvious they are trying to break the game with prior knowledge (they played it before otherwise they would never think of this object) I try to come up with a funny reply.

> ask fred about the snake
Fred tilts his head and looks at you suspiciously. “We haven’t found that yet, remember?”

Hope this helps a bit.

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These are all wonderful suggestions, thank you. I think you’ve pushed me firmly into “do something, but don’t go overboard.”

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