So far my approach with Somewhere North has been to plan for some possibilities (dungeon exploration, different towns that people might visit), but not really to focus on other people. I'm not talking about the incidentals, like shop owners and so on - in fact, some great NPCs so far have come about purely through table interactions.
But I realised that one of the big differences between how I had run Dogs in the Vineyard and how I was running LotFP, is that in the former everything was built on thinking about the people in the towns first, whereas in the latter I was thinking about the world and what was in it. Is one or the other "better"? I'll leave that for another time - or perhaps your comments.
Four sessions in, and with everything that the players have been doing - stealing money from mean village leaders, cursing an entire village to indefinite silence, heading out of town with intentions to delve into an ancient Dwarven tomb - these are actions that get you noticed. There is only so long that you can stay under the radar. If you curse an entire village to silence, then pour scorn on that (fairly wealthy) place, aren't they going to send people after you? If you insult a bookshop owner who offers to buy something from you (while being probably evil and up to no good), isn't he going to try and get that book from you somehow?
And these things are not about the world but the people in it. Who gets sent after someone? What kind of groups are out there looking? What is in it for them? Could they be persuaded to do otherwise? What would help them to do that? What haven't people seen in the world yet?
I love questions.
I spent part of my weekend thinking about NPCs and bad guys in particular, or at the least, if not bad guys then people we might loosely term "rivals". If an NPC needs a job doing in a role-playing game, they turn to the players to ask. But if that job involves stopping/killing/apprehending the players, who do you call?
That's the question I answered this weekend.
(insert mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha and moustache-twiddling here)