In New England, LARPing season is in full swing-- like many of my comrades, for the last few weekends and until it gets really cold, I've been packing my totes and zipping off to the event-of-the-weekend. It's been tiring, but grand. On these many rides to-and-from LARPs, conversations, unsurprisingly, drift towards LARP. One thing that's been popping up a lot for me is the issue of RP-active combat NPCs.
To be clear, these are the crunchies-- the little ones who pop up until you take down the bigger one(s). They are often played by tireless NPCs who have been thugging for most of the weekend. They probably don't have a backstory, and they may or may not have a particularly good briefing. They are there to fight PCs, to be a body, and to amp up the danger of an encounter. This brings me to the problems of role-play with these NPCs.
As a PC, I dislike completely lifeless, uninteresting crunchies. Even if you're only out for an hour, endlessly recycling, I really appreciate when people put in the extra effort to breathe life (or unlife) into Random Zombie 5. Monster-appropriate grunts, movements, and, when appropriate, strategies go a long way for me. With that being said, as a PC, there is nothing more obnoxious than a random monster who is distracting, through over-acting, from the real focus of the fight-- to me, it's like a chorus member constantly upstaging the lead.
So how do you strike a balance in crunchy RP roles? Personally, I think it has a lot to do with monster camp briefing-- as an NPC, I enjoy it when I'm given simple and clear instructions, which include motivations (this can come from a stat card or, ideally, a person). The monster master at Aralis is particularly good at doing this: rousing speeches, funny and wonderfully delivered, provide motivation and meaning for even the smallest roles. I'm curious as to other people's opinions and experiences regarding "RP-active crunchies"? Do you like them? Hate them? Notice them? If you staff games, how do you brief crunchies relative to RP? If you NPC, do you attempt to characterize even the most "inconsequential" monsters? How?