I have an analogy I like to use when deciding if new people are worth investing time in. I call it the RPG Analogy. For anyone who has ever spent time playing either a video game or tabletop RPG, the terminology will be quite familiar. For those that haven’t, I’m sure it will be easy enough to pick up.
Every RPG has a hero. That hero is portrayed by the player or players if it is a hero party. This is the person or persons that go through the storyline of the RPG and accomplish tasks to achieve the goals of the story. Everyone is the hero of their own RPG. Everything from internal dialogue to choice tables to boss fights is centered around you in your own RPG. In someone else;s RPG, however, you may just be an NPC. Someone who falls in the path of the character and has little to no effect on their overall arch. You are just set dressing in their world. Or perhaps you have a side quest for them. Perhaps you have a side quest for them that they don’t realize you are involving them in and the next thing they know they wake up on the other side of the map after getting blackout drunk, everyone hates them, they’re married to a woman they’ve never even met, and you’ve robbed them blind and are nowhere to be found. In that instance you are a nuisance, but you are still not a party member, so you are technically still an NPC.
The RPG analogy focuses heavily on the concept of NPCs or Non-Player Characters. Party members would be friends and some family members. I say some family members because not everyone trusts their family members enough to consider them “Party Members”. Party members are the people you go on quests with regularly. You have each other’s backs through everything and at the end of the quest they have either helped you achieve your spoils, you have helped them achieve their spoils, or you both share equally in the spoils. Your closest friends, your wingman when going to the bar, your most trusted coworkers are all examples of potential party members.
NPCs are all around you. The clerk at the gas station, the bartender at your favorite bar, the police officer that wrote you that speeding ticket. Those are all NPCs. However, there are anomaly NPCs. These are people who stand out from other NPCs in one way or another. They could pop up anywhere. The new guy at work, the girl running the register at your supermarket, or that guy who said something while sitting next to you at the bar that caught your attention. They may just be offering you a new quest, they may be potential party members, but you will never know unless you look at them and engage the conversation.
It sounds ridiculous at first, but if you think back to how you met everyone you’ve ever had an “adventure” with or anyone you would call a friend, it all started this way. You didn’t know anything about each other before one of you initiated a conversation. Before that conversation they may have been an NPC in your reality. Something made them a party member though. You never know who it will be. I don’t make practice of just walking up to random people and starting conversation, there is usually some sort of clue that makes them pop up as a potential plot point. This is like the arrow that pops up over the head of a character with a quest.
This indicator could be anything. The way an NPC looks at you, the suggestion from a fellow party member, or just the way your brain perceives the person. Whatever it is, there is a que that you should talk to that person. No one ever knows what might come of engaging an NPC, and that can be frightening, but if you look at it as part of an adventure, then reaching out beyond your comfort zone should be part of that. After all, fortune favors the bold.
So go out there, meet new NPCs, be part of other heroes adventures, live life as if it were an RPG, and most importantly, have a little fun. You never know just who you might meet.