Rob Perez, creator of RPG Mastery, is all about the NPCs. He considers interaction with NPCs to be about 2/3rds of a Dungeons & Dragons game, core to both the exploration and role play pillars of the game. His players love his NPCs to the point where they bring them along for adventurers and even get invested in entire story arcs about their favorite side characters. Rob plays along by making character sheets for recurring NPCs so they can showcase unique talents without overpowering the players. Balance and flexibility are key for a great GM, and they’re qualities Rob has in spades.
What is your favorite TTRPG to run and to play in? Why?
It's a tie between Call of Cthulhu and Dungeons & Dragons. Call of Cthulhu is my favorite to play in. Its rules and how the game is typically run fits my preferred game type more.
How did you get started in TTRPGs and how did you become a pro?
I was introduced to the hobby during college by a friend of mine as a way to express creative interests in a fun and engaging way. My transition into professional GMing was not a singular moment, just as a whole. I've made so many new and hilarious memories because of my career change and it would be a shame to just label one instance as best.
What is your biggest strength as a GM?
NPCs. I even made a near 25 minute video on the subject of NPC Design. If there is one thing my players love the most: it's the people they meet. All of my players have a favorite and some players even get attached outside of the game. I put a lot of effort into bringing all of them to life, going as far as to make player sheets that I use so I can level NPCs up (or even have the players level them up) as we go along. This also helps with balancing, as no one likes a DMPC that overtakes the game. Important NPC's typically are asked to go along with the players, by the players, so I interweave them into the story, or even dedicate an arc to their character if it seems like the players would like it.
Do you prefer homebrew or premade adventures? Do you have any favorite table rules?
I love running homebrew stories, being a storyteller at heart. It's just who I am as a person. Even when I run premade adventures, I always end up turning them into something unique and special. I really can't help myself.
Every one of my tables is different. I want my players to have fun first and foremost, so I talk to them about what they are looking for and how we could achieve it. One of my tables has flanking, one does not. One of my players wants to be a Hexblade Warlock that multi-classes (everyone's favorite) and I allow them because the other players want to power game too, so I throw them a challenge every week. The table rules are there to be changed and made better with every group, not as a constant.
What is your best advice for players and GMs?
Talk. I firmly believe that almost every problem at the table can be solved with a conversation or two, whether it's anxiety from being a new player, or if there is a player that saps the joy out of the game. Simply talking with the other players and the GM will make the problem known at the bare minimum, and sometimes solutions are made on the spot. The only way to guarantee that a problem is not solved is if no one knows that there is a problem in the first place.
I interview each and every one of my players before I let them join my games. I do this for multiple reasons but the main one that during the interview I get to know the player personally. I can see if they'll be a fit for the group and/or the setting, and I get to ask questions and be asked questions, all before a single commitment is made.
What do you love about StartPlaying Games?
It's the website that I started on, despite having my own. SPG is growing so fast I can't keep up. It hosts my career at the moment. I wish I had learned that I could have turned TTPRG's into a job before this year.
You can find more of Rob’s GMing tips, including his method of building such lovable NPCs, on his YouTube channel and Instagram. He also has his own Discord server where you can get to know him before signing up for his games. To book a session with him, check out his StartPlaying profile!