Article - Bob

AuthorTopic: Article - Bob
BoE Posse
Member # 112
Profile #0
He's the man of a thousand faces. He has appeared in hundreds of scenarios, wearing many different guises, but underneath, always the same unmistakeable character.

He plays the role of Mayor Crouch from Valley of Dying Things. He masquerades as the Prime Director in At the Gallows. He wears the face of Gwennyth in Shadow of the Stranger. He appears dozens of times in Falling Stars.

Who is this man of mystery? He's the guy who sends you on missions.

Let's call him Bob.

Bob's a busy guy. While he isn't in every scenario ever made, if you pick one at random, chances are he's there. Often he puts in multiple appearances in a scenario. Why? Because, as smart as they are, scenario designers can't do everything on their own. Sometimes, they need Bob's help.

Bob's bread and butter is providing direction for poor, confused players. Often, it can be hard for players to know what to do next, so they get confused. Confused players are unhappy players, and (most) scenario designers don't want their players to be unhappy. So they want to help the players, but it looks kinda sloppy to have a big booming voice out of the sky announce "Try going to Centrevilleburgtown!", so they get Bob to do it. Stuff happens, players come and tell Bob about it, and he tells them what to do next.

Bob is so busy that he has his own little helpers. They're called Boblings. There's hundreds of them, and they take all the little jobs. They handle side quests, occasional courier missions, and other incidental stuff like that. It helps ease the load on Bob.

But if a job's important, Bob comes in and does it himself. When you come back to him time and again, and when the jobs he sends you on changes the state of the story, that's Bob.

A funny thing about Bob is that he only seems to be able to play three basic roles:

1) A mayor or some other kind of government official.
2) A military leader.
3) A powerful spellcaster.

No one really knows why, least of all Bob himself.

Also, despite the fact that Bob is almost always more important than the party - after all, he's telling them what to do! - he's far too busy to do it himself. So designers need to come up with an excuse why Bob doesn't go save the world instead of getting other people to do it. Often it's that he's too busy organising everyone, or something boring like that. It can be more interesting, though it doesn't really matter if it is.

But there's a problem. You see, Bob feels a little unappreciated. He's a very nice guy and isn't about to go on strike or anything, but he does feel that he doesn't get the credit he deserves. After all, he usually plays the most important NPC in the scenario! The player spends far more time talking to Bob than anyone else. So Bob has a few requests. He's very understanding and will help you out even if you don't do them, but it'll make him feel better about himself.

First off, Bob hates being given stupid exposition all the time. When a scenario has a complicated backstory to explain or someone needs to figure out the bad guy's plan and tell the player, it's always Bob. He's getting sick of it, because it makes him feel like he's nothing but a Fact Vendor - insert completed quest, collect new info. No actor likes being given exposition, and neither does Bob.

Because, you see, Bob is an actor. He can act any role you give him, good or bad. And he really likes to have good roles. He feels so frustrated when the party keeps coming to talk with him, and all he can do is play a bureaucratic paper-pusher. He really feels that he should have the best role in the scenario, considering how much time the player spends with him. He liked his role as Gwennyth in Shadow of the Stranger and would like to do more like that.

Also, since all of Bob's scenes are with the party and since there's so many of them, he loves his character to have a really interesting relationship with the party. The Boss-Subordinate relationship is pretty well explored by now and pretty boring. Bob loves to try something new. He'd be thrilled if he got to play someone like SHODAN from System Shock 2 (not a Blades scenario!). The bad guy who forces the player to work for him because they both know the party has no other option - he loves that idea. He'd also love to play a rich, beautiful, picky young woman giving her suitors tasks to determine who is worthy to be her husband.

Make Bob happy.

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Discuss.

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Posts: 1423 | Registered: Sunday, October 7 2001 07:00
Shaper
Member # 22
Profile #1
Excellent article, and though I agree with it all, I think that Bob in his boring state doesn't detract from a truly great scenario. Take Anthalon from Falling Stars - I don't really feel that he has a personality as such, but he serves his purpose pretty well and the scenario is still top-notch.
Posts: 2862 | Registered: Tuesday, October 2 2001 07:00
BANNED
Member # 4
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I'll try to please Diviner Oppenheimer-- err, Bob-- more in my next effort. -_-

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Posts: 6936 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 954
Profile #3
Clever article. Game players truly love Bob. He wasn't in AC1 and AC2 and many players weren't too happy about that and became confused(though I suppose there were many Boblings). How, then, does one make an enjoyable scenario without Bob?

[ Sunday, April 11, 2004 15:31: Message edited by: Shyguy ]
Posts: 246 | Registered: Thursday, April 11 2002 07:00
BoE Posse
Member # 112
Profile #4
Well, Quintessence is essentially Bob-less. It gives you one clear goal at the start and the rest of the scenario is spent achieving that goal. Same with Za-Khazi Run.

Echoes: Assault does fine without Bob (for the first half, at any rate). Your goal is pretty obvious - to survive. When the text box comes saying that the fort has fallen, it also says that your only option now is retreat.

So basically the answer is making it so that the next thing the player has to do is perfectly clear without Bob to tell them. But if it's a bit complex - find the Black Amythests before the baddie does so he can't complete the spell to kill you, for example - you really need Bob.

You can go for a while in a scenario without direction, of course. Just make sure that wandering about and exploring will naturally lead the player into the next stage of the scenario.

Morgan - Agreed, but how much better would it have been if Anthalon was a great character?

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Posts: 1423 | Registered: Sunday, October 7 2001 07:00
Apprentice
Member # 1227
Profile #5
Instead of trying to make scenarios without Bob, which certainly can be done, I think it's good to make Bob as interesting as possible. Think about the Crones in Nethergate. They give the party quests and explain things, but they're a key part of the plot and are pretty interesting.

I haven't done any Blades scenarios, but one twist I've used with Bob in my PnP games is what I call "Riding the Tiger" Bob (or whoever.) Bob has done something bad. He still might be an official/spellcaster/military leader, but he has been stealing from the government and is trying to cover his tracks/has summoned some kind of nasty creature which may be trying to kill him/has been corrupt and incompetent and has let a situation in his area get out of hand. Bob is screwed, unless he can get the party to help bail him out of the situation. Bob will lie, manipulate, and lead the party on as much as he can. Of course if the party ever finds out they're being used, Bob is in real trouble. Same if the government/demon/higher-ups find out what's going on. He's riding the tiger, if he stops he's going to get eaten. You can get some really interesting results with this kind of Bob.
Posts: 9 | Registered: Tuesday, May 28 2002 07:00
BoE Posse
Member # 15
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Kill Bob!

You start the scenario - supposed to meet Bob and get your scenario instructions. But Bob is dead of natural causes when you arrive.

So you have to figure out what to do on your own.

Break the Ugly Bob Syndrome (UBS)!

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Posts: 653 | Registered: Thursday, September 27 2001 07:00
Apprentice
Member # 4243
Profile #7
Bob is just a grafic in the editor. So he obviosuly DOSNT HAVE any feelings!!!
Posts: 26 | Registered: Monday, April 12 2004 07:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
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In the scenario I'm making right now, I have a variation off of Brett Bixler's idea: Bob has called you to him, and you start just before you're supposed to meet him. You go to where he's supposed to be, and he's not there. A substitute Bob tells you what to do, with the authority of the real Bob behind him. This substitute Bob acts in place of the real Bob for much of the scenario, while the real Bob hangs just out of reach. This is also kind of similar to ASR's series of Boblings acting in the name of the real Bob.

The end result, as in ASR, is that meeting the real Bob is far more dramatic than it would be otherwise. I do this because my Bob is a fairly intense figure.

If you do this, it's important not to let the player down once you've built up a mighty Bob reputation. Once the player finally meets him, he has to be just as dynamic and interesting as his reputation would make him out to be.

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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #9
But players are people, and they do have feelings. Their feelings towards your scenario will likely be improved if you upgrade your Ugly Bob to a Decent Bob, or if you're willing to work at it, an Extraordinary Bob.

—Alorael, who agrees that hiding the Bob under a better facade is a great step. One Anaximander is quite enough, thank you very much.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Apprentice
Member # 4243
Profile #10
But bob is not a player- like i said earlier HES A ONLY A GRAFIC
Posts: 26 | Registered: Monday, April 12 2004 07:00
The Establishment
Member # 6
Profile #11
Hey, if you are really nice to Bob, err...Anaximander, you can get him to disrobe for you.

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Posts: 3726 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #12
*sigh*

Now I need to write another article.

There's nothing wrong with having Bob. There's nothing wrong with eliminating Bob. There's nothing wrong with avoiding Bob altogether.

After all, he's an integral part of DBSM.

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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 4180
Profile #13
DBSM?

-spyderbytes

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-spyderbytes
Posts: 200 | Registered: Wednesday, March 31 2004 08:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #14
DragynBob Sado-Masochism

Or DataBases.

It's an inside joke, either way.

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"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00