The whole thing is worth a read, but idea, that McGrogin tapped time and time again was this:
Everybody, every single last NPC in any game, even those who appear randomly and you make up on the spot, should have goals and desires and interests. If you can make sure that happens games almost run themselves – because any chance encounter with an NPC can become an adventure or a tangent or a reason to do something.
Everybody is a person, everybody has motives, everybody has goals: that real life is impossibly rich and varied and if you’re serious about creating a fictional world you need to recognise that.
As I keep saying, there’s a lot to talk about regarding Yoon-Suin, and my head is filling up with ideas for future posts about how Yoon-Suin does what it does, how it expresses a world without tons of prose, how it helps the Referee build content for adventure, how I’ll be taking what I’m learning from Yoon-Suin and applying it to my Traveller game, and that I could probably take Yoon-Suin right now, switch out the proper nouns, and use it to generate compelling Main Worlds for Traveller right now…
But what I want to note is one of the things McGrogin builds into the setting again and again… characters in motion. He is helping the Referee build one NPC after another who wants something, who will be going after other NPCs, who will be needing help (Hello, Player Characters!)
There is so much that is interesting about the setting itself that I didn’t really notice this at first. There is so much texture and sensation in the setting. But its clear from the interview (and from the information in the book itself, once I paid attention to it) that McGrogin is not interested in having you show off Yoon-Suin to your Players. What he wants is for you to have NPCs that are driven, in motion, and taking action for their passions and desires. He wants the Yellow City and the environs of Yoon-Suin to be alive with action, plotting, lust, romance, vengeance, ambition, fear, loathing, and desire. He wants the the world pulsing with the human heart.
These motivations and plots are big world-shaking stuff mind you. It’s all quite human and personal. Even the Slug-people. (Especially the Slug-people, really.)
There’s a quote that I came across at Patrick Stuart’s False Machine that I think sums up what I like about the setting of Yoon-Suin so much, why I’m so drawn to it and what I want to deliver to the Players tomorrow night:
Perhaps something else no-one has said is how much Yoon-Suin is about beauty… All of the sights in it are picturesque. Very like an orientalist painting. Even the very horrible locations are a little more ripe than harsh. And the culture depicted in Yoon-Suin is about luxury and about beauty. Its relaxed instead of tight, slow instead of quick, warm rather than cold, lit rather than dark, sad rather than grim, opium not cocaine. Some RPG settings are created, in the manner of Apocalypse world, on a kind of energetic tilt so that whatever the PC’s do when they wander into it will have deep ramifications, the world will spin around them. One gets the sense that, no matter how the DM constructs it, the world of Yoon-Suin is not going to change very much regardless of what the players do. The opium barges will still drift down the Yellow River, the slaves will still have rubbish lives, the Slug Men are not going to be deposed from the Yellow City. (Who would bother to? And who would replace the Slug Men? Calm down and have some tea.) The politics of the Hundred Kingdoms will always be chaotic and the chaos will never change. The PC’s are simply moving through this world like everyone else.
But while the landscape and the world might not change much, the people of the land of Yoon-Suin are in constant, passionate motion. They are driven by their passions–the good, the bad–and in those passions there is something beautiful as well.
If you look at the quotes from McGrogen above, and if you read the interview, you’ll see he cares very much about people. That he’s very interested in people. That what people want matters, and that what people to to get what they want is worthy of note–no matter who that person is, no matter what they want, no matter what they’re in the midst of doing to get it. If they’re alive with a motivation and motion, then they are of value.
I think that has a lot to do with what Yoon-Suin is about. What McGregor, I think, is getting at is that there’s something very beautiful in that as well.
As I type up the notes I’ve generated from the book’s tables and expand on the NPCs , I’ll be remember that each step of the way.