After this week’s page went online, we got this comment on Twitter, from Craig:

At first, I thought he meant that contested rolls should be avoided because they disrupt the flow of combat (generally speaking, true), but then I realised he was talking about having two NPCs acting against each other. This is, indeed, potentially even more disruptive, and not just for the flow of combats.

The problem with having two NPCs acting against each other is that there’s no player interaction at that moment. It’s a part of the game during which the players are just an audience, listening to the GM narrating other things that happen. This is not inherently wrong, but as we’ve discussed before when we talked about scenes with a single PC, it should probably be done quickly and end as soon as possible.

Craig later mentions he prefers just deciding what’s happening between the NPCs, without rolling, to speed things up. This is doubly true in more complex systems, where the resolution might require more than just a simple roll. Savage Worlds, fortunately, really is fast and furious, and so I’m comfortable with rolling for an NPC who’s doing something, as long as that NPC, and that something, are both important enough for the players to care about and be influenced by. Generally speaking, I ask myself these questions:

Will this impact the PCs in a major way? If some nameless mook hits another nameless mook in the other side of the tavern during a brawl, would anyone really care? I can just say that one of them got taken out of the fight, I don’t need to roll for it. But if the mook was hitting James, who’s part of the players’ crew and thus an interesting person, the mook should probably roll for it. (Savage Worlds does a great job with Extras, by suggesting that each player get assigned one or two for combat purposes; that keeps the players engaged even when NPCs attack each other).

If not, is it at least entertaining? I can just have Draculetta automatically succeed in pinning Heuberger to the wall, without a roll. But wouldn’t it be more entertaining to see her roll? To let the players behold her imposing d10? And to maybe get a weird result, like having Heuberger rolling to the side in time, thus making him a bit more annoying, while at the same time forcing us to be a bit impressed with him? The answer is generally “Yeah!”, but it actually depends on one final question.

Is this going to take ages to resolve? As impactful or entertaining the action is going to be, it might not be worth the effort, pushing everyone out from the immersive scene and into a minute long rule-checking. Balancing worth and effort is an important GM skill, that most GMs learn to handle pretty well, pretty quickly (just keep asking these questions until it’s natural). Thanks to Savage World’s quick and dirty grappling rules, it takes so little time to have NPCs attack each other, that both Nadav and I are happy to let the dice go to town on these poor NPCs and create interesting stories.