[RPG] Players constantly capture enemies and question them, how to deal with it


I'm running a campaign for five sixth level players and the bard has hypnotic pattern. Whenever the party runs into any fights with enemies who can speak, they always find some way of making an enemy incapacitated or doing non-lethal damage so they can question them later.

This always makes me have to think of things for that otherwise silent NPC to say and it feels bad to make them say nothing and "force" the party to just kill them.


Is there any smooth roleplaying way to handle this situation?

Best Answer

There are other benefits to capturing an enemy besides just information

Rather than every NPC either having secrets or nothing, consider other things for your NPCs to offer the party.

As an example, perhaps this particular NPC enemy was just a mercenary for hire and has no real loyalty to the villain. Perhaps they'll leave with their lives if you let them live, not following the villain anymore, but if you offer to pay them, they might join as an allied NPC (although you don't want to let this happen too often, otherwise your players will want to amass an army of cannon fodder, but it's an example of an NPC who is useful for reasons besides info).

Silent NPCs?

Also, I must question the use of "silent NPCs". This implies that you haven't really thought about why that particular NPC is there, what their motivations are for helping the villain. If it's just another cookie-cutter loyal cultist, then fine, just have them ramble about how their time has come and how the PCs won't live to see it, etc, etc, just kill them. But for other, more rational NPCs...

Not every NPC needs to have a rich personality with a huge backstory or anything, but they should at least have the basics of a personality, even if it's just one simple trait and a reason for being there. The DMG has a whole chapter on creating NPCs, with some advice on "Quick NPCs" and tables to roll on to quickly generate on-the-fly personalities (pages 89-91). You can use this to quickly whip up a personality, maybe even only after they've been captured, but since it's quick, ideally before. This might also influence their decisions before they're captured, since not every enemy wants to fight to the death.

Surpriser provided in a comment an account of how successful this can be and how interesting the outcomes it leads to can be:

I had a captured bandit tell them how he was only there because of his debts, which made him fear for his life. They actually paid off his debts and now he is a friendly ally. Made a very nice contrast to the bandit leader who spat at them and told them to sod off in very clear words after being captured. They were suitably impressed.

I think this nicely illustrates the potential for a little characterisation of NPCs and how that can help to enrich the story being told.

Related: What are the stages of influencing Hostile NPCs?