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Techmagss
2013-02-22, 09:48 AM
Alright so

Dungeon master player characters have been popping up in my sessions recently and I'm getting frustrated with how they know everything the DM knows. I've even seen my DM fudging rolls so his character gets good rolls, he has never gotten a nat 1

Anyone help me? Also, please share your opinions on the DMPCs.

obryn
2013-02-22, 09:54 AM
A DM who runs a DMPC has lost the mandate of heaven.

-O

Synovia
2013-02-22, 09:54 AM
Almost always a bad idea.

Morbis Meh
2013-02-22, 09:59 AM
Alright so

Dungeon master player characters have been popping up in my sessions recently and I'm getting frustrated with how they know everything the DM knows. I've even seen my DM fudging rolls so his character gets good rolls, he has never gotten a nat 1

Anyone help me? Also, please share your opinions on the DMPCs.

You're not alone believe me, 90% of the time DMPC's do not work either because the DM will heavily bias this character (like in your case) because it is THEIR character or even if the DM doesn't give spotlight and favour the NPC the other players may still be miffed since their only stake in the game is being the PC's which the DM is still ingringing on despite them not taking a major role. All in all most people on this boards discourage DM's using DMPC's period, some people will say that it works for them for THEIR group which is the key factor. The only DM I have seen to use one normally didn't RP it and eventually dropped altogether once the PC's were less squishy (only purpose was to be used as a safety net)

Sidmen
2013-02-22, 10:06 AM
I've successfully used a DMPC for about 6 months, but I read all of the horror stories on here and resolved to make my DMPC not be hated.

It probably also helped that I have a tiny group (me+2) so any combat they got into was doomed to kill one or the other before long.

Lord Torath
2013-02-22, 10:14 AM
I think the main trick to running a DMPC is to make certain he's a support character. Do NOT give him the spotlight. Ever. That's what the PCs are for

I've currently got a Fighter DMPC I'm running. I always make certain to keep him a level or two under the other PCs, and I don't give him any flashy abilities or equipment. He doesn't suggest ideas (unless the PCs are stumped and need a hint), he doesn't lead negotiations, and he doesn't have plot-relevant backstory. There are no situations where his skills (and only his skills) are critical to success.

The players like him because he's always there to lend a hand in combat, but he doesn't outshine them, or take the spotlight away.

As long as you keep the focus on the PCs, having a DMPC will probably work out okay.

I've also read about a cleric DMPC who was well-loved by the party he was in, but again, he played a supporting role, not a leading role.

Edit: And don't fudge dice rolls to favor your DMPC. If he dies, he dies, and you can make up another one. If you ever get to the point where you are tempted to "cheat" to keep your DMPC alive, it's probably time for him to go.

CoffeeIncluded
2013-02-22, 10:16 AM
You've got to be really careful with a DMPC. I find one of the hardest things, actually, is that you can't make secret plans unless you leave the DMPC out of them. It can be done, but you need a good DM and a good group. I haven't DMed yet, but if I do, and if I do a DMPC, it would either be someone in a supporting role who provides hints only if the rest of the party gets stuck, or play a rotating cast of a few NPCs that join the party for a certain length of time...and depending on whether or not they survive and are treated well, may be called upon as allies in the future.

Killer Angel
2013-02-22, 10:24 AM
Dungeon master player characters have been popping up in my sessions recently and I'm getting frustrated with how they know everything the DM knows. I've even seen my DM fudging rolls so his character gets good rolls

Anyone help me?

Talk to the other players, be sure everyone is on your boat.
Then, all together, speak with your DM and try to stop this madness.

hymer
2013-02-22, 10:31 AM
Talk to the other players, be sure everyone is on your boat.
Then, all together, speak with your DM and try to stop this madness.

This is sometimes referred to as 'ganging up' on someone, and has a tendency to put the one ganged up on in a very unconstructive frame of mind.
I agree you should talk about it with the other players, and then the DM, but you should be careful s/he doesn't feel like you're ambushing them.

Gorfnod
2013-02-22, 10:38 AM
Simply put, if your players don't want one then it's probably not a good idea.

I have run them on occasion but only as support characters and only in cases were there were only 2 other players. To be completely honest, you have enough to do as the DM anyways, why be concerned with running a PC too. I find that NPCs work better for my ends but can't say that I share the "hate" of the DMPC that I have generally come to see on the boards.

Unseenmal
2013-02-22, 10:40 AM
Previous DMs (myself included) used to run a DMPC because we always had a small group (DM +2 or +3) and we fell into ALL of the obvious pitfalls with doing so. We just didn't know.

We have easily fixed that by making an NPC character that fills a support role (as others suggested) and we take turns, except the DM, each week playing that NPC.

For example, I'm trying to run a game for 4e that will be starting in a month or so. There are 3 players and we had the striker, defender and controller roles filled so I made a healing cleric to cover the leader role. His job is simply to keep them alive. Anything else the PCs use him for is on them.

This removes him from being a DMPC and turns him into an NPC cohort/hireling

Rakoa
2013-02-22, 10:42 AM
I will use a DMPC, completely without bias, but only if the party is very small and requires an additional member to fulfill a certain role. For example, I've DMed a small game with only two PCs. One was a barbarian, the other was a warmage. I introduced a rogue to the group to give them a scout/skillmonkey type character to work with that was on the same tier level as they were. There were times when he failed, and there were times when he lost.

If done correctly, I don't have any problem with a DMPC. Not to say that the way I am doing it is correct, per se, just that it works for me and has yet to cause any problems in the games I have run.

Jay R
2013-02-22, 10:51 AM
As long as you keep the focus on the PCs, having a DMPC will probably work out okay.

I've also read about a cleric DMPC who was well-loved by the party he was in, but again, he played a supporting role, not a leading role.

And the easiest way to do that is to call him an NPC, not a DMPC.

A PC is a C run by a P. A DMPC is a C run by a DMP. And a Dungeon Master Player is fundamentally different from a Player.

The DM already knows the answer to every riddle, the weakness of every monster, the location of every secret door, the value of every treasure, and the danger of every trap.

A PC is a character run by a player in a game in which she's trying to figure out the answer to the riddles, the weaknesses of the monsters, the locations of the secret door, the value of the treasures, and the dangers of the traps. The fun of the game is facing the unknown.

A DMPC is, at best, a character run by a player who has looked at the DM's private notes. Whether he uses that knowledge or not, it's there. He isn't facing the unknown.

I'm not saying the DMPC is cheating. I'm actually saying something much stronger - it's impossible for him to be playing the same game the PCs are playing. When a DMPC starts to open a door, he already knows what's behind it. When he puts on a magic ring, he already knows if it's cursed.

Even if the DM is being scrupulously fair, his PC isn't making decisions with incomplete knowledge, and we are.

I don't play football when the referee is playing.

Synovia
2013-02-22, 11:31 AM
The biggest problem with the DMPC isn't the favoritism, its the loss of character agency. The Safety Net is the problem. None of the decisions the PCs make ever matter, because the DMPC can always bail them out, always knows the riddle, etc.

DMPCs are essentially a form of railroading.

Lord Torath
2013-02-22, 11:31 AM
And the easiest way to do that is to call him an NPC, not a DMPC.

A PC is a C run by a P. A DMPC is a C run by a DMP. And a Dungeon Master Player is fundamentally different from a Player.
Yeah, I guess I'm really running him as an NPC that hangs out with the party, and not so much a DMPC.

Rhynn
2013-02-22, 11:39 AM
DMPCs are both unnecessary and a bad idea. The DM shouldn't be running a character.

Not only do they have a myriad of problems, they are also frequently a warning sign - not every DMPC is a hellish railroad conductor, but too many are.

A DMPC is not just an NPC. NPCs can, do, should, and will tag along with the party, depending on circumstances. A DMPC is usually a party member in his/her own right (or a hellish railroad conductor). That's no good.

As a DM, you should create an interesting world with interesting characters in it. You don't need to play one as a PC. If you really, really want to play a PC, get someone else to DM or find another game to play as a PC at while running your own game.

Darius Kane
2013-02-22, 11:44 AM
Cool concept. I'm running DMPCs whenever I have the chance.

Anderlith
2013-02-22, 11:49 AM
*I might have got nostalgic during this post, sorry

I've only had one DMNPC, Gnish the Goblin Hero (He's the basis of my avatar)

The thing about DMNPCs are that you have to be subtle with them & they cannot be in a position of authority. Gnish was just a CR 1/3 goblin that the PC's happened to spare when they attacked them. after some questioning they let him live, the parties wizard even allowed him to work for her as a blacksmith apprentice. He helped them take down a small goblin fort & a few other things in his adventuring career. He always stayed a level or two behind the party as well. The thing was, while he would occasionally point things out, or give extra info (mostly about goblin tactics & such) he would never tell them what to do. He also wasn't godlike, no super crits, no epic heroics. I admit I allowed him to "die" once so that he could make a triumphant return to save the day, but it was all scripted for the plot, not because I wanted to bring him back. My party loved Gnish, he was like their mascot, I've made it canon in all my games now that there is or was a goblin hero named Gnish in one form or another.

The subtle approach is better, making them seem weaker than the party yet still useful is the key. (Obi-wan Kenobi is a good starting place to get the feel of how a DMNPC should be)

MukkTB
2013-02-22, 11:59 AM
This is the best DMPC I have ever seen:
http://www.urealms.com/content.php?150-Unforgotten-Realms-Episode-1
You probably need to watch a couple episodes to get a feel for it. The core part of this is that the DMPC is supplementing a 1 man party and he never acts as the protagonist. He doesn't step in to stop the protagonist when he thinks the guy is doing something dumb. He just acts as support. So in edge cases it is possible to have a DMPC not be terrible.

As contrast the next link contains a DMPC that embodies everything that is terrible about them:
http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=612
Again you'll need to read a bit to get the feel. This DMPC (Gandalf) is hoisted on a party that already numbers 8 people. It seems that the players were not allowed to choose the more potent classes but the DMPC is the most powerful in the core book. The DMPC regularly takes the spotlight solving problems and is used to railroad the PCs into the DM's plot. This is the opposite edge case, a worst case scenario.

There will be some people rushing to the defense of the DMPC. You regularly hear "I play a DMPC and it works." On occasion you hear "My DM plays a DMPC and its ok." I think the ratio is telling. If players actually liked having a DMPC around you should theoretically get 3 or 4 players praising the DMPC for every DM instead of the other way around. I do not like the DMPC in most situations. I would not play with one under normal circumstances in the same way I wouldn't play a football game with the ref as a player. There are exceptions of course. The small party comes to mind. 2v2 with one guy who knows the rules and makes calls is better than 2v1 with a dedicated ref when it comes to casual football. Essentially a tiny party may justify the need for another actor. For D&D I believe this is only the case with 1 DM and 1 Player.

From the DM's perspective being a DMPC is not the same as being a PC in any way. The DM knows the answers to the puzzles and how many monsters are behind the next door. It takes the mystery away and simultaneously denies the ability to make good decisions in the dungeon. Any decent play or good idea is tainted by the assumption that the DM designed the encounter to work that way. From the player's perspective there are multiple problems. A DMPC can be a wrathful Mary Sue if the players don't care for it. I've seen situations where the DM punishes player for not loving their DMPC. There is an extreme risk of railroading. The DMPC may be allowed to grab the spotlight. In a larger party this problem is amplified. With 6 or 7 people there is already a pretty narrow slice of time that each player can be in the spotlight.

The final blow to the DMPC in my opinion is the fact that the DM is already responsible for running NPCs. A well run DMPC and a well run NPC supporting the party are pretty much indistinguishable. The only difference is the NPC hasn't been given some divine mandate. If the party lacks a dedicated healer it doesn't necessitate a DMPC. Assuming they don't just turn to magic items they could hire an NPC healer to tag along. The same goes for pretty much any other situation. That leads to story options. NPCs can have their own motivations and personalities that lead to interesting plot points on their own. The most amusing one I can bring up is a KotDT comic where the hired help grabbed all the loot and made a run for it through the dungeon creating a chase through the dungeon's hazards. This kind of thing couldn't happen with a DMPC because while the actions of an NPC cause the players to think about the problem in game, the actions of a DMPC cause the players to immediately question the metagame. In one case the player thinks, "The slimy rat stole my stuff. I'm going to find him and stab him alot." In the other case the player thinks, "Why is the DM in the game stealing stuff off my character sheet?"

killer_monk
2013-02-22, 12:02 PM
I've been using one of my old characters as a DMPC for awhile. He doesn't do combat with them so he doesn't roll at all. He just buys magic items they don't want anymore as a collector of such objects. He also gives quests and awards magic items. DON'T use DMPCs to make yourself cooler, that's not your role, just give the PCs help if, and ONLY IF, THEY ASK YOU.

Darius Kane
2013-02-22, 12:07 PM
Well, people like to complain, so you hear more often about the bad than the good.

Synovia
2013-02-22, 12:16 PM
I've been using one of my old characters as a DMPC for awhile. He doesn't do combat with them so he doesn't roll at all. He just buys magic items they don't want anymore as a collector of such objects. He also gives quests and awards magic items. DON'T use DMPCs to make yourself cooler, that's not your role, just give the PCs help if, and ONLY IF, THEY ASK YOU.

That sounds like an NPC to me.

Elvenoutrider
2013-02-22, 12:34 PM
The only successful dmpc I have ever run was a quiet priest who followed the party around, wore no armor, and did not participate in combat. He would once in a whole chime in with an "is this really necessary?" But he was ordered by his church leader to let the part do their thing and keep them alive. Basically the party used him as a first aid kit that carried himself. Made it all the more satisfying when he revealed that he was working for the enemy all along and his healing came from a concealed wand of cure moderate wounds

Techmagss
2013-02-22, 12:35 PM
Does anyone mind if I steal use their ideas for DMPCs- the good ones?

the_david
2013-02-22, 12:51 PM
I tend to use NPC's instead. I once used a sorcerer as an addition to a 2 men party, though I let him be played by guest players occasionally.

Meepo and Erky Timbers from Sunless Citadel are classic examples of how you could use a NPC to aid the party.

PersonMan
2013-02-22, 01:09 PM
I don't play football when the referee is playing.

You do realize that sport analogies like this only work if you:

A) Play a DM vs Players game in which one sides wins and the other loses
B) Play an unusual Party vs Party game in which the DM is the referee

DnD isn't about winning or losing. It's about having fun and, for many people, creating a story. I can see DMPCs being problematic in all-combat dungeon crawls, but in normal games?

Assuming one has the right kind of group and right kind of DM it should work fine.

By this I mean:

A: The DM does not treat the DMPC other than they would a PC. EDIT: Assuming they do not use metagame knowledge in ways harmful to the game as a PC.
B: There is communication. The players and DM communicate about whether or not something like a DMPC is right for the group.
C: The players do not get riled up at the thought of "losing the spotlight" or "getting X% less treasure" or "leveling more slowly".

Other things factor in, but this is all I can think of at the moment.

Otherwise it won't work as well. Just like everything. Ever.

Mighty_Chicken
2013-02-22, 01:24 PM
Sometimes you're feeling lonely. Everyone has an avatar to do things they don't do in real life, except you. Everyone plays protagonists, and you have the burden of playing every single coadjuvant in the world. And even if you like this role, it can get old.

If a DMPC never knows the solution, never takes leadership, is less powerful then other characters... then if you're enjoying it, it's only because you like to interact with other people like most RPG players do.

But if when building the DMPC you're all excited about what feats and skills you're taking... wait, what, did you want to do anything with these? Take your paws away from the cookies, mister. They're not for you.

Tengu_temp
2013-02-22, 01:33 PM
I never used DMPCs myself, but I heard of games when they were used right and nobody minded. So yeah, no wonder how many high and mighty words the opponents of DMPCs will use to describe why are they always a bad idea, factual evidence proves them wrong.

It's true that a DMPC in the hands of a bad DM is a disaster, though. But then, so is almost anything in the hands of a bad DM.

PersonMan
2013-02-22, 01:35 PM
But if when building the DMPC you're all excited about what feats and skills you're taking... wait, what, did you want to do anything with these? Take your paws away from the cookies, mister. They're not for you.

Unless you're playing with a group that would cheer the daring rogue DMPC on as he desperately tries to topple the lookout tower damaged by the mage's spells to block off the oncoming enemy reinforcements*, rather than whining out "we are not in the spotlight".

*The point is not the example, you could replace this with [insert dramatic situation in which a non-PC does something important] if you wish.

I generally don't like to be harsh towards other playstyles, but in my view any group that complains about anyone but the PCs doing important things needs to mature and realize that the world doesn't revolve around them in-game.

BRC
2013-02-22, 01:42 PM
Even if the DM does not show favoritism, adding another character to the party will slow down everything. A DM rolling against himself means everybody is bored. Same with a DM roleplaying with themselves. Same with a DMPC making decisions on behalf of the party.
So a DMPC can't talk with other NPC's, that's the PC's job.
They can't roll a lot of dice in battle, that means everybody else is bored and you're just making encounters harder in order to counteract your DMPC.
They can't make decisions on behalf of the party.

That said, I think that there CAN be good uses for DMPC, one that comes to mind is a DMPC intended not as a boon, but as a challenge.

For example, a criminally minded party gets a paladin DMPC handler, not because the DM wants them to stop breaking all those laws, but because the DM wants them to be smarter about it. The Paladin is not supposed to represent the DM helping out the party or controlling them, he's supposed to be a challenge for the PC's to overcome.
And having the Paladin along provides an additional reward. If the PC's are able to convince the Paladin they are being law abiding, they have a good character reference to help them get away with crimes.


I generally don't like to be harsh towards other playstyles, but in my view any group that complains about anyone but the PCs doing important things needs to mature and realize that the world doesn't revolve around them in-game.

I disagree. The Players are within their right to expect to be in the spotlight.

It would be like if you went to a James Bond Movie, and it was two hours of him sitting in a hotel bar flirting with waitresses and waiting for a contact to show up. In the end he gets a call from M saying that the evil villain arms dealer got spotted and captured by airport security in Paris, one of his goons plea-bargained, and a team of Navy S.E.A.L.S is on their way to his evil base.

Yes that's a not unreasonable outcome, but it's not what we're here for. The Players are here to control characters on a heroic adventure.

SowZ
2013-02-22, 01:45 PM
As a DM, the party frequently has temporary NPC companions who will fight with them. They are usually weaker than the party, but they are always traveling with the party due to party decisions/plot relevance. I make it a point to find some reason for any given NPC to leave after a couple sessions, though they will likely bump into him/her again.

In combat, the NPC is usually weaker than the party. Occasionally, he is someone of significance in the world and so he is higher leveled, (not often in my D&D games since I have a pretty low leveled world, sometimes it happens in super powered games which my group plays a lot of,) in which case I make sure it is a more support class or they have NPC levels.

In combat, I certainly don't favor the NPC. If anything, I view him as armor for the PCs. I don't fudge die rolls and will kill players when the dice land on it. So, if the party has a temporary NPC with them at the time and a battle is particularly rough? If I suspect someone may die? I will slant the battle in a way that the rocket launcher blast is more likely to hit the NPC than any one player. So they have a high mortality rate.

I don't think these count as DMPCs, though. But the players usually love them and think they add flavor. Sometimes they even romance them.

The Glyphstone
2013-02-22, 01:48 PM
I still maintain the opinion that there is no such thing as a 'good DMPC'. A DMPC is, by my definition, a DM playing 'both sides of the screen', being a player and DM simultaneously and taking advantage of that fact either via favoritism, meta-knowledge, or the other classic traits of a DMPC. If they do none of these things, and just follow the party and help without any advantages or taking the spotlight, they're a NPC like any other, a hireling, they're not a DMPC. The players may enjoy their presence, grow attached to them and value them as a member of the party - excellent, they've gained immersion - but that does not elevate them to PC status.

Doug Lampert
2013-02-22, 01:49 PM
My problem with DMPC arguments is that I've NEVER gotten a clear statement of what the difference between a DMPC and an allied NPC is.

I use allied NPCs all the time, the BIGGER the group is the more likely they are to happen, as two guys might well go seaking adventure together and I can EASILY scale back the encounters, but when it's 6+ people it's pretty clear they'll recruit more people when convienent.

So what makes someone a DMPC? About equal power to the party? Some allied NPCs are less powerful, some more powerful, some as powerful.

Member of the party? My PCs often end up with an explicit party organization and group. There have been times when an NPC was voted in and a PC wasn't a formal or full member.

Gets a full share of treasure and a voice in party decisions? Yep, if an NPC is there and has an opinion he or she expresses it. If he or she doesn't get a reasonable share of the treasure there will be trouble. I've had NPCs tell the party "I get a double share or you're on your own", because that seemed like a reasonable thing for the NPC to do, and parties have both agreed and disagreed at various times.

But when I describe the details of things I've done I'm effectively always told the characters are NPCs or cohorts, not DMPCs, and I can't really get a good idea of WHY they aren't DMPCs since they seem to fit any reasonable definition (one exception is that in combat or when dealing with a puzzle or the like I'll usually hand the character to a player and say, "You run Barbie-Kim this time", but that's because I'm busy and when the NPC doesn't have her interests being ignored or violated she goes along with the party).

But I don't always hand over control, and I ALWAYS retain the option to say, "She wouldn't do that, she does X instead".

Tell me what distinguishes a DMPC from an allied NPC and I'll try to tell you how to do a DMPC well, because if my players object they hide it well. The best I can come up with is an NPC that the DM is emotionally invested in, and yeah, that's probably bad most of the time.

Killer Angel
2013-02-22, 02:02 PM
This is sometimes referred to as 'ganging up' on someone, and has a tendency to put the one ganged up on in a very unconstructive frame of mind.
I agree you should talk about it with the other players, and then the DM, but you should be careful s/he doesn't feel like you're ambushing them.

Makes sense, yes, it's a good advice.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-02-22, 02:04 PM
Tell me what distinguishes a DMPC from an allied NPC and I'll try to tell you how to do a DMPC well, because if my players object they hide it well. The best I can come up with is an NPC that the DM is emotionally invested in, and yeah, that's probably bad most of the time.

Maybe an allied NPC that the party has no choice about whether or not to include in their group?

Talakeal
2013-02-22, 02:06 PM
There are numerous issues which make a DMPC is almost always disasterous to the game.

Even if these issues are avoided and the DMPC done well the DM will be distracted and in a position where they can't play the PC to the full potential because doing so would be a conflict of interests.

Lots of players also resent DMPCs on principal.

MukkTB
2013-02-22, 02:07 PM
A DMPC is pretty simple. Its either A. a character the DM has declared is his or B. a character the DM has decided is his specific avatar but hasn't informed the party. A is objective. B is subjective, you cannot confirm it. However most DM's aren't as sneaky as they think they are when it comes to pulling a fast one on their players. B boils down to a question of if the NPC is done well. If it isn't, one of the explanations for its problems may be speculation that it was a DMPC.

PersonMan
2013-02-22, 02:09 PM
Even if the DM does not show favoritism, adding another character to the party will slow down everything. A DM rolling against himself means everybody is bored. Same with a DM roleplaying with themselves. Same with a DMPC making decisions on behalf of the party.
So a DMPC can't talk with other NPC's, that's the PC's job.
They can't roll a lot of dice in battle, that means everybody else is bored and you're just making encounters harder in order to counteract your DMPC.
They can't make decisions on behalf of the party.

Like I said: you need the right group.

Some people, myself included, can enjoy good dialogue and combat scenes even if they aren't involved. Perhaps this is because I play a lot of PbP, but if anyone in my RL games started rolling their eyes and flopping back in their chair when a DMPC and NPC starting talking, my response wouldn't be 'man, DMPCs are booooring' but 'if he's not paying attention now, why would he pay attention when I'm talking?'.

Because, really, listening to the DM say "Bob attacks [rolls die] and hits for [rolls dice, mental math] 8 damage. The monster shouts something. Ok, you're up, Jack"

is not magically harder than listening to

Jack: Ok, McJohansen attacks. [Rolls die] does [result] hit?
DM: Yes.
Jack: Ok, good. The sword slices into the beast for...[rolls dice, mental math] 8 damage!
DM: The monster shouts something.

This falls less under "party wants the spotlight" and more under "this guy doesn't pay attention to turns that aren't his and does not know what's going on in or out of combat".



I disagree. The Players are within their right to expect to be in the spotlight.

It would be like if you went to a James Bond Movie, and it was two hours of him sitting in a hotel bar flirting with waitresses and waiting for a contact to show up. In the end he gets a call from M saying that the evil villain arms dealer got spotted and captured by airport security in Paris, one of his goons plea-bargained, and a team of Navy S.E.A.L.S is on their way to his evil base.

Yes that's a not unreasonable outcome, but it's not what we're here for. The Players are here to control characters on a heroic adventure.

Mmhmm. I don't know if this is intentional, but it looks like a strawman to me.

My argument: the PCs should be fine with doing 80 to 90 percent of the important, dramatic stuff. If they complain about anyone else ever doing anything important, they need to grow up.

Your interpretation My interpretation of your response: the PCs are there to do stuff! Let them!

I agree with your argument, but it has nothing to do with mine.

Codyage
2013-02-22, 02:20 PM
I can see a DMpc being used to maybe fill a party spot that they are missing, and only if they are given the OK by the party. MAybe a healer, or hire someone to some tracking. But generally I don't have the DMpc's in my games. I normally just use an npc, and if I DO use a DMpc I keep them in the back, quiet, and either throwing a heal or two, maybe having them try and attack one or twice. They will chit chat with the party, but they get played more as an npc then anything else.

But in 90% of all D&D games I have played, whenever a DM tries to use a DMpc, they end up trying to take over the campaign. I have a story from a recent campaign, but I am not sure if this is the place to post it.

Synovia
2013-02-22, 02:24 PM
Assuming one has the right kind of group and right kind of DM it should work fine.

By this I mean:

A: The DM does not treat the DMPC other than they would a PC.

This is exactly wrong.

The DM HAS TO treat a DMPC differently than they would a PC for it to work. The DMPC knows everything. They have to be treated differently or they become a get out of jail free card for everything, which entirely removes player agency.

Doug Lampert
2013-02-22, 02:37 PM
Maybe an allied NPC that the party has no choice about whether or not to include in their group?

Better than most, but, Ars Magic, I've run a game where the PCs were (very) junior members of a (very) large and powerful covenant, the senior members could decide to include themselves in an adventure if they wanted to and were interested. (Technically the PCs ALWAYS only got the crumbs that were left after all the senior members had picked out what they wanted to do.)

At least once a senior member (Catharine IIRC) said, "You people are my bodyguards while I go deal with X. You don't have to do anything important, just give a good yell if you see something that might hurt me. Maybe if you're nice I'll let you keep some trivial crap from the loot, assuming it doesn't all get incenerated. Oh yeah, and while I'm blasting the big bad you'll get two or three rounds of shooting the trivialities prior to my being able to mop them up too."

No choice at the time, but later when they got to where a couple of them could teleport one of their standard ways of dealing with things that looked like serious problems was to spend the entire session investigating to figure out exactly what needed to die to solve the problem and exactly where it was, then two teleports to show up with Catherine and let her blast it (she couldn't actually teleport on her own although she did have an escape device). Something like a eight players, no one seemed to object to the method, I got objections from players when I decided to end the campaign and run something else.

Was Catherine a standard NPC for the half dozen adventures before and after that one, or was she a DMPC I only really used once?

Because there was certainly at least one adventure where they had her along, she felt free to boss them around (but usually didn't bother, what does she care about the details of guard schedules or scouting ahead), and they had no choice about her presence.

There were later cases in the same game where she asked for volunteers and they took her up on it, when they could easily have turned her down and done something else (semi-sandbox game, there was ALWAYS a list of possible things to do). So was she a DMPC when she didn't give them a choice and an NPC when she did?

BRC
2013-02-22, 02:46 PM
Like I said: you need the right group.

Some people, myself included, can enjoy good dialogue and combat scenes even if they aren't involved. Perhaps this is because I play a lot of PbP, but if anyone in my RL games started rolling their eyes and flopping back in their chair when a DMPC and NPC starting talking, my response wouldn't be 'man, DMPCs are booooring' but 'if he's not paying attention now, why would he pay attention when I'm talking?'.

Because, really, listening to the DM say "Bob attacks [rolls die] and hits for [rolls dice, mental math] 8 damage. The monster shouts something. Ok, you're up, Jack"

is not magically harder than listening to

Jack: Ok, McJohansen attacks. [Rolls die] does [result] hit?
DM: Yes.
Jack: Ok, good. The sword slices into the beast for...[rolls dice, mental math] 8 damage!
DM: The monster shouts something.

This falls less under "party wants the spotlight" and more under "this guy doesn't pay attention to turns that aren't his and does not know what's going on in or out of combat".




Mmhmm. I don't know if this is intentional, but it looks like a strawman to me.

My argument: the PCs should be fine with doing 80 to 90 percent of the important, dramatic stuff. If they complain about anyone else ever doing anything important, they need to grow up.

Your interpretation My interpretation of your response: the PCs are there to do stuff! Let them!

I agree with your argument, but it has nothing to do with mine.

My point is centered around two ideas: Efficiency and Agency.

As a DM, I'm frequently concerned with efficiency of play. Somehow "I attack" "Roll the dice" "18" "that's a hit, roll damage" "12 damage" always manages to stretch out. I enjoy combat at it's best when it's smooth and dynamic, therefore every combat turn (especially for a more complex character like a PC), bogs things down. Normally that's okay, because it means somebody else is there having fun.
In my mind, a DMPC is then adding more overhead to the combat without meaning anybody else is having fun. A DMPC must therefore improve the experience for all involved enough to justify the additional combat time.

Now, as for Agency.

The Players want to tell a story, and they'll be having more fun when they're the ones who get to CRAFT the story. Any time a DMPC makes a decision that the PC's could have made ,the DM is depriving the players of some agency.

So if you have a conversation like this

NPC: Halt! This bridge is closed by order of the king!
DMPC: Stand aside my good man, we are here on royal authority *bluff Check*
NPC: Alright, where are your papers?
DMPC: We're on urgent business! General DuMont will be very angry if we are delayed! (Bluff Check, intimidate check)
NPC: Very well, godspeed to you.

Now, even if the players had already decided that they were going to bluff their way past the guards, once the guard asked for their papers, the DM made the decision to escalate the bluff.
Was it a reasonable move, yes. But in that moment the PC's were deprived of agency. The DM made the decision to escalate the bluff. What if the Players would have decided to attack the guard, overpowering him with surprise before he could call for help rather than risking him not believing the bluff and calling reinforcements. Even though the bluff worked, it wasn't the player's decision.

If your DMPC is active, it's difficult to avoid depriving the Players of agency. The DM already has lots of decisions they get to make, so each one taken from the players is a bad thing unless you can be sure that YOUR decision will make the game more fun than the Player's decisions would have been.


My main issue with DMPC's is the implication that they are a long-term fixture of the party. An allied NPC who sticks around for a session or two can bring some entertaining novelty to the campaign, and I'm all for that. In my experience the new dynamic that is created is more than fun enough to make up for slower combats and a loss of agency. But once their presence becomes the status quo then you are depriving the PC's of agency and slowing down combat.


As for you point about PC's doing everything, your stance seems much more reasonable now that you've given me the 80-90% number. That's fine. The PC's don't need to be the only people in the world who have agency.

However, they should be the ones making decisions for themselves. They could make the decision to tell the Duke about the bandits, and the Duke could make the decision to send in his troops. A DMPC is part of the party, which means that they get a say in the actions of the party. If the DMPC says "Hey, we should tell the duke" 1: He's acting as a railroad conductor, even if the DM does not intend him to do so, and 2: In some way making a decision that the players should me making. If there are four players, and they vote on decisions, then each has a 25% share in the party's decisions. If a DMPC gets a vote, then each player only has 20%.

PersonMan
2013-02-22, 02:49 PM
This is exactly wrong.

The DM HAS TO treat a DMPC differently than they would a PC for it to work. The DMPC knows everything. They have to be treated differently or they become a get out of jail free card for everything, which entirely removes player agency.

Sorry, I was assuming the DM in question acts similar to me as a player. That is, if they have metagame knowledge, they don't ruthlessly exploit it for their in-game "benefit" and are instead interested in playing a game with their character.

The kind of person who can read a module and when, months later, they end up playing it, they don't make a character designed to exploit the weaknesses of the enemies and "just happen" to pack all the items they will need. As opposed to one who has to restrict their metagame knowledge so they screw over the game for people who don't want to be playing with Mr. Metagamer.

I do think you have a point, but in my view "don't use metagame knowledge if it would be bad for the game" is something every player should do, thus rendering "has metagame knowledge of everything" a nonissue.

I will edit it, though, for clarity.

Synovia
2013-02-22, 02:54 PM
I do think you have a point, but in my view "don't use metagame knowledge if it would be bad for the game" is something every player should do, thus rendering "has metagame knowledge of everything" a nonissue..

And on some scenes, this is fine. But on a lot of scenes, it comes down to "Nobody has any idea whats going on. Gene McDMPC rolls knowledge and remembers that the PCs have an old key that might work here".

You've now deprived the PCs of a chance to explore an alternate soluition. Maybe they forgot about the key and would have broken down the door, or climbed the walls and cut a hole in the roof. You as the DM know there's a key, so your mind s going to ask "Where is the key from dungeon 5?" and you're going to remember one of the PCs has it.

It just leads to all sorts of conflicts of interest, and robs agency from the players.

Fortis
2013-02-22, 02:54 PM
So far, I've been fortunate to not have run into the DMPC problem. I've only seen one DMPC, and he was played pretty well. It was a humorous little goblin named Splug that the party defeated and later befriended. At first, he was just guiding us to the goblin's hideout, but when a couple players dropped out, he was promoted from minion to rouge. Still, he didn't steal the spotlight, as most of his turns were spent either trying to hide, or throwing daggers from hiding, or running up to fallen PCs to pour a potion of healing into their mouth. (Had to convince him that there was no such thing as a healing shiv.) Basically, helped with the sudden power imbalance, and served as a distraction. Once we got some more PCs, Splug went back to being a minion.

I guess I'm saying is that if they hang to the back, and let the PCs keep the spotlight, I don't really have a problem with DMPCs.

PersonMan
2013-02-22, 03:08 PM
And on some scenes, this is fine. But on a lot of scenes, it comes down to "Nobody has any idea whats going on. Gene McDMPC rolls knowledge and remembers that the PCs have an old key that might work here".

You've now deprived the PCs of a chance to explore an alternate soluition. Maybe they forgot about the key and would have broken down the door, or climbed the walls and cut a hole in the roof. You as the DM know there's a key, so your mind s going to ask "Where is the key from dungeon 5?" and you're going to remember one of the PCs has it.

Generally, if everyone is sitting around, stumped, it's because there's a problem (often because some "riddle" or similar was made that's basically "read the DM's mind").

I've never had the experience of sitting around, stumped, then thinking "a-ha! We can break down the door!", such things come up early. Sitting around with no idea of what to do next is not what happens when a brilliant idea is being concocted and it's a different atmosphere. If the DM can read the situation, they will know when the players are thinking about a solution and when they are utterly stumped.

Besides, unless the DMPC is the only one with a good Int/Wis, anyone could be the recipient of the "DM sees nobody has an idea, picks someone with good Int/Wis, rolls a check to get things moving again" deal.

(And to be honest, I've never seen a player who honestly considers sitting in front of a door for a long time, looking for ways to open it, as more interesting than the DM saying "because of your superhuman Wisdom, you remember that you found keys that look like they might fit this lock".

Whether you get it as opening description or as a result of a prompt ["Wis check? Do I remember anything about this type of door?"] doesn't change much, IMO. Who's ever heard the story of when [hero name] stood in front of a locked door, the key in his back pocket, for ten minutes?


It just leads to all sorts of conflicts of interest, and robs agency from the players.

Player Interest: I want this to be an interesting, fun game for everyone.
DM Interest: I want this to be an interesting, fun game for everyone.

Not seeing the conflict here.

Lost Demiurge
2013-02-22, 03:17 PM
A DM who runs a DMPC has lost the mandate of heaven.

-O

This. A thousand times, this.

Mind you, there is a difference between "Support NPC who's there to fill an unfilled party role, never makes any choices, and doesn't grab the spotlight," and DMPC.

Though I don't even like the first one, much. Usually better to coordinate the party roles with the party before the game starts to make sure these guys aren't needed.

Synovia
2013-02-22, 03:33 PM
Generally, if everyone is sitting around, stumped, it's because there's a problem (often because some "riddle" or similar was made that's basically "read the DM's mind").

I've never had the experience of sitting around, stumped, then thinking "a-ha! We can break down the door!", such things come up early. Sitting around with no idea of what to do next is not what happens when a brilliant idea is being concocted and it's a different atmosphere. If the DM can read the situation, they will know when the players are thinking about a solution and when they are utterly stumped.

Its a simple example to describe a situation. Don't read into it.

The point is, every time the DMPC does something, it robs the players of an opportunity to do something else. Its a railroading tool, nothing else.

The conflict of interest comes when the rogue is about to say "Oh, I pull out my cool slippers and climb onto the roof" when the DMPC says "oh, wait, I have a key. Lets open the door"

You're putting what the DM Wants to happen above what the players want to happen. Thats almost always a bad thing.

Doug Lampert
2013-02-22, 03:40 PM
This. A thousand times, this.

Mind you, there is a difference between "Support NPC who's there to fill an unfilled party role, never makes any choices, and doesn't grab the spotlight," and DMPC.

Though I don't even like the first one, much. Usually better to coordinate the party roles with the party before the game starts to make sure these guys aren't needed.

Now this thing about support NPCs being marginally acceptable has been said by a bunch of people, and it's one thing I would NOT do, nor would I really aprove of another GM doing so in a game I was playing unless the party is running through a module that assumes there is a member of class X.

Because you can adventure without an X, for any class or character type X. You don't NEED a cleric, you don't NEED a meatshield, you don't NEED a wizard, and you certainly don't NEED a trap-finder or tracker. You just need to approach problems diffently and take the lack into account (both from the player and GM side, adventures with lots of traps are a bad idea if no one is interested enough in traps to make a trapfinder).

I would not wreck versimilitude by creating an NPC cleric of nearly equal level who does nothing but stand in the back and heal, if he doesn't want the group to succeed why is he there and helping? If he does want them to succeed why does he do nothing but heal when he has so many other powers and abilities? I can't make sense of this character.

A much lower power henchman who'll die if he gets in the line of fire doing that. Sure, that sort can stand in the back and hold the horses and torches and carry the healing potions and maybe use a wand of CLW if they have the ability to do so. But a nearly equal level cleric? That's crazy talk. If your idea of the cleric class's vitally neccessary function can be duplicated by a ranger, paladin, bard, druid, or adept with a magic stick then maybe the cleric isn't actually all that vital.

PersonMan
2013-02-22, 03:42 PM
The point is, every time the DMPC does something, it robs the players of an opportunity to do something else. Its a railroading tool, nothing else.

I'm not seeing it. If the DMPC says "we could climb in through the window", how does this stop the players from saying "no, let's go around and try the back door"?

It could be that I've never been the style of DM to plan everything out, so as a DMPC I wouldn't know that I "want" a specific thing to happen. I put the PCs in position A, describe the area and expect them to get to position B (where they want to go for their own reasons).


The conflict of interest comes when the rogue is about to say "Oh, I pull out my cool slippers and climb onto the roof" when the DMPC says "oh, wait, I have a key. Lets open the door"

This conflict of interest doesn't exist if another PC says "oh, wait, I have a key"?


You're putting what the DM Wants to happen above what the players want to happen. Thats almost always a bad thing.

See above. As a DM, what do I "want" to happen?

Synovia
2013-02-22, 03:52 PM
I'm not seeing it. If the DMPC says "we could climb in through the window", how does this stop the players from saying "no, let's go around and try the back door"?


You've given them a reason not to. Why are they going to try to go around back when the DM-Through-the-DMPC has basically told them that the window is a valid entry point? You've instantly reduced the possible solutions from *anything* to "go in through the window".

You have to remember, you're not just a player, you're the DM, so your comments have much more weight.




It could be that I've never been the style of DM to plan everything out, so as a DMPC I wouldn't know that I "want" a specific thing to happen. I put the PCs in position A, describe the area and expect them to get to position B (where they want to go for their own reasons).

Right, but as soon as you say something, you reduce their possible choices.



This conflict of interest doesn't exist if another PC says "oh, wait, I have a key"?


No, because thats a player, not the DM looking at his notes. Its the wrong side of the screen.


See above. As a DM, what do I "want" to happen?
How the heck would I know. Your information in a particular situation is completely different from the PCs', and thats how it should stay.

When someone designs an obstacle, they design it with a typical way to overcome that obstacle. When that typical way can be elicited by having the DMPC just blab, it prevents creative problem solving.

If you want to play a story character, be a PC, not the DM. Being a PC inherently compromises your ability to be a good DM. You have a different, very important role. Stop trying to overlap the player's role.

jindra34
2013-02-22, 03:57 PM
I honestly disagree with using an NPC to fill in a nessecary role. Primarily because if its that important to have, having it be an NPC will irk the party, and a player could just have it as a second character (note if the players are unwilling to let one (or more) of themselves have a second character, you the DM having one will not go over well.)
Having a NPC tag along for story/roleplay purposes? That can work. But it should be played/run with a light touch, assist only when asked or the NPC is in significant danger, and have reasons/explanations for both not being as helpful as possible and for how they will leave if/when they start causing trouble.

PersonMan
2013-02-22, 04:06 PM
You've given them a reason not to. Why are they going to try to go around back when the DM-Through-the-DMPC has basically told them that the window is a valid entry point? You've instantly reduced the possible solutions from *anything* to "go in through the window".

You have to remember, you're not just a player, you're the DM, so your comments have much more weight.

This falls under "communication". Unless you want to use the DMPC to dispense DM-given wisdom, tell them that's not what it's for.

Also, if mentioning something as a valid option removes all others, why do players never get broken by the DM saying "you can open the door or go in through the hole in the wall"?


Right, but as soon as you say something, you reduce their possible choices.

So, theoretically, you should just describe a scene once, then never say a word?


No, because thats a player, not the DM looking at his notes. Its the wrong side of the screen.

What? The issue here is that two different people have two mutually exclusive ideas. In-game, there is no DM, no DMPC/PC/NPC divide. Unless we're playing with an amount of metagame knowledge in-character that's even higher than, for example, in OOTS, the party won't just suddenly abandon all other options once the DMPC mentions something.

I mentioned that you need the right group. This means that, if you have players who latch onto every word the DM says and take it as a command, you should probably not use a DMPC.



How the heck would I know. Your information in a particular situation is completely different from the PCs', and thats how it should stay.

So you say what I want is different than what the players want, but you don't know what anyone wants?


When someone designs an obstacle, they design it with a typical way to overcome that obstacle. When that typical way can be elicited by having the DMPC just blab, it prevents creative problem solving.

Unless it's an "obstacle" on the level of "there is a closed door", no.

This has occasionally caused trouble, when I realize that the party just got into a situation without any visible way out, but so far they've managed to pull through every time.



If you want to play a story character, be a PC, not the DM. Being a PC inherently compromises your ability to be a good DM. You have a different, very important role. Stop trying to overlap the player's role.

If your group has nobody but you who can DM (assume that these people suck terribly badly and will not improve) and you really want to play a PC, you talk to the group and they are totally fine with it...what then?

Now, I've never actually used a DMPC, in large part because of the increase workload it'd mean for me, but I've played with them in my party and never had problems.

Probably because our greatest enemies are things other than doors.

obryn
2013-02-22, 04:07 PM
My quick guidelines are these. First off...

The DM should never run a full PC as a PC, full stop. This means they should not try and experience the game as a player, they should not share even spotlight time with the players, they should not be greedy about treasure, and they should not become attached to them. If they want to run a PC, they should persuade one of their players to run a game. :smallsmile:

Otherwise, when including NPCs as companions or cohorts...

(1) They should not be of greater power than the PCs; someone like Gandalf fails this test more or less right away.
(2) They should not be simply better than one of the PCs in that PC's area of pride or expertise. If you have a Ranger in the party, don't add in a better Ranger. If your party's wizard prides himself as a loremaster, don't include a smarter loremaster.
(3) If the system allows it, they should not be built like PCs. (4e makes this easy, since it's the default; 3.5 makes this hard.) If they must be built like PCs, they should be limited or restricted as much as possible, and ideally kept very simple using a pretty limited class.
(4) Their presence in the party should be brief if they are of considerable value and not just there to fill a "role" gap - like "we need a healer" or "we need a rogue." Even if they are filling a gap, it's best to rotate them out and rotate another NPC in semi-regularly.
(5) This is the biggie for me - they should be controlled by the players during combat, with the DM keeping veto rights as appropriate for the NPC's personality and goals.

I have two long-term NPCs with my Dark Sun game, but neither of them is good for much other than comic relief. One is the disembodied head of one of the PCs' cousins who spends most of his time in a backpack, throwing in muffled comments here and there. The other is a lying, devious, smarmy manservant that one PC spontaneously picked up in Nibenay; he bootlicks and fleeces that PC regularly, and that player loooves it.
Also, this guy - Rexarches - died in Urik after falling from the grasp of a phantom razorwing. However, the Urikite templars in the city below Raised him and bound a demonic beast into his flesh. They sent him over to the party as a trojan horse of sorts; when the Urikites confronted the party, he turned into the demon, tried to kill them, and died. Rather than leave well enough alone and let Rexarches stay dead, that player decided to Raise him again and he's back to his greedy, obsequious self. What I'm saying is, my player really likes that manservant. The other PCs hate the manservant. So I think it's working out well.

Previously, they had a dwarf "bodyguard" who used excessively simple rules. (4e stats below). I thought of him more like treasure or an "artifact" than an NPC; his job wasn't to talk.

Garos was a Level 5 cohort. He had Soldier defenses, Soldier hit points, and 4 healing surges. He never rolled dice; his standard action was a "shield bash" which dealt 5 damage to an adjacent enemy and pushed them 1 square. His OAs dealt 8 damage, no attack roll. 1/encounter he could become the target of an attack on an adjacent ally. He worked very well, and I'd be happy to include something like him again in the future, but the party really doesn't need it!

They had a Fire Giant for a very short time who got turned to ash by a sorcerer-king. That was pretty fun; the Warlord loved attacking templars with him.

And briefly, they recently had a pseudo-Runepriest Leader NPC tagging along with them. He didn't see much action, though, except for 1 combat.

...and that's pretty much where I stand. I try to live by my guidelines. :smallsmile:

-O

Synovia
2013-02-22, 04:15 PM
Also, if mentioning something as a valid option removes all others, why do players never get broken by the DM saying "you can open the door or go in through the hole in the wall"?

When you do that, how often do the players do something other than go in through the hole in the wall, or through the door?


What? The issue here is that two different people have two mutually exclusive ideas. In-game, there is no DM, no DMPC/PC/NPC divide. Unless we're playing with an amount of metagame knowledge in-character that's even higher than, for example, in OOTS, the party won't just suddenly abandon all other options once the DMPC mentions something.

Two players having different views is absolutely fine, because they have equal agency. They exist in the same frame.

The DM however, does not. The DM, and, by extension his DMPC have power over the players. That creates a problem.




If your group has nobody but you who can DM (assume that these people suck terribly badly and will not improve) and you really want to play a PC, you talk to the group and they are totally fine with it...what then?


Then, either you try to help one of the other people be a better DM, or you find another group to play as a PC with. You can always play in 2 groups.



Now, I've never actually used a DMPC, in large part because of the increase workload it'd mean for me, but I've played with them in my party and never had problems.
Yeah, clearly. It was pretty obvious.

PersonMan
2013-02-22, 04:32 PM
When you do that, how often do the players do something other than go in through the hole in the wall, or through the door?

I haven't counted, but generally they take a fairly straightforward route. They prefer getting to whatever is on the other side of the wall quickly to approaching in some unusual fashion.


Two players having different views is absolutely fine, because they have equal agency. They exist in the same frame.

The DM however, does not. The DM, and, by extension his DMPC have power over the players. That creates a problem.

The DM has power over the players only as long as they let him.

The DMPC has zero power over the players. Just like every NPC, ever. The most a DMPC has is in-game influence over the characters.

Synovia
2013-02-22, 04:35 PM
The DM has power over the players only as long as they let him.

The DMPC has zero power over the players. Just like every NPC, ever. The most a DMPC has is in-game influence over the characters.

The DMPC has exactly the same powers as the DM. The DMPC is the DM. Anything the DM knows, the DMPC knows. Anythign the DM wants done, the DMPC will do.

jindra34
2013-02-22, 05:03 PM
Synovia your issues aren't with DMPCs. Its flat out with your trust level of the DM. If they decide that something will play out a certain way, or that something is the only option, that'll be it regardless of whether or not a DMPC is present.

Zombimode
2013-02-22, 05:08 PM
The DMPC has exactly the same powers as the DM. The DMPC is the DM. Anything the DM knows, the DMPC knows. Anythign the DM wants done, the DMPC will do.

Why would you think so?
The issue is actually threefold: 1) what the DM knows is true; 2) what the NPC thinks is true; and 3) what the NPC actually says.

All three can be different.

Synovia
2013-02-22, 06:09 PM
Why would you think so?
The issue is actually threefold: 1) what the DM knows is true; 2) what the NPC thinks is true; and 3) what the NPC actually says.

All three can be different.

Not in the case of the DMPC it really can't. A standard NPC, yeah. A standard NPC doesn't have player agency. A DMPC does.

Synovia
2013-02-22, 06:10 PM
Synovia your issues aren't with DMPCs. Its flat out with your trust level of the DM. If they decide that something will play out a certain way, or that something is the only option, that'll be it regardless of whether or not a DMPC is present.

No, I have no problem with a DM presenting an obstacle that can only play out one way. Thats fine.

What I have a problem with is a DM presenting an obstacle and then solving it himself. Thats not a game. Thats a play.

kyoryu
2013-02-22, 07:33 PM
DMPCs are tricky to do right. Done poorly, they can destroy games. Done well, they can certainly add to a game.

My opinion is that, in general, it's best to avoid them - in general, I've found that the risk of them is not worth the potential upside.

Especially as a GM, your job is to make a fun game for the players. The things you do should be to ensure the players have fun (note: This does not mean "automatically win everything"). Ask yourself the motivation for the DMPC - is it so the players have fun, or so *you* have fun?

Arbane
2013-02-22, 07:36 PM
A DM who runs a DMPC has lost the mandate of heaven.

-O

Did you get that line from this RPGnet thread about obnoxious DMPCs (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?24873-Worst-GM-s-Pet-NPC&p=422316#post422316), or is it parallel evolution? (It's a fun thread, BTW.)

Dire Panda
2013-02-22, 07:41 PM
I once found myself in the unusual situation of having my players request a DMPC. Yeah, let that sink in for a second. In my experience, that's the only time a DMPC works - when the DM is reluctant to play one, but the players insist. And it's never happened to me since.

Mine was originally intended to be a disposable NPC used as a sort of macabre teaching aid. At the time my players were all new to D&D and we were only a few weeks into the campaign. They'd played it pretty smart overall, but two of the players had occasional tendencies towards blindly charging into danger or picking fights with things out of their league, so I figured I'd give them an in-character lesson. And so they met Ferrika, an overzealous and overconfident paladin of Heironeous, while searching for an artifact said to be hidden on a giant-infested tropical island. Despite the advice of the townsfolk, she'd decided to openly seek out and fight any giant that came near the town rather than adopt the sensible guerilla approach that had worked in the past. The PCs almost decided to work with her, but I played her as just unhinged enough that they bailed at the last moment. As the PCs jungle-stealthed their way towards the center of the island, they came to the edge of a clearing and witnessed her trying to solo a giantess. Seeing the paladin get swallowed whole really helped drive home the point that some challenges couldn't be faced head-on.

That could have been the end of it, but I decided to have some fun. Ferrika returned as a ghost haunting the party, blaming them for letting her charge off to her death, and making their lives difficult in various social situations. That's when the players did something unexpected - they apologized for not trying to stop her. Not only that, but they gradually bonded with her and convinced her to use her ghostly powers to help them. When they returned to civilization a few games later to deliver a McGuffin to the high priest of Heironeous (whom I'd intended to lay her to rest), they gave up a good deal of the treasure they'd found to fund her resurrection. And now we had a problem - there was an NPC that everyone still wanted around, but no party member was high enough level to take Leadership.

I resisted playing a DMPC for a while (having heard quite a few horror stories), but the players liked her enough that she transitioned out of the faceless meat-shield role and I ended up giving her a detailed backstory full of plot hooks. She had quite the character arc, too. In fact, one of the defining moments of the campaign came when they discovered the darkest secret of the cosmos - that the gods were actually feeding the souls of their worshipers to the universe's prime mover, That Which is Mother and Devourer, to keep it from awakening and remaking the universe - and she alone resisted the knowledge. Convincing her to renounce her god and her paladin powers and work towards defeating the Prime Mover once and for all actually brought more than one of us to tears. (She ended up swapping alignment and becoming a CG Paladin of Freedom fueled by righteous rebellion against the corrupt gods - and helped the PCs triumph in the end, making a couple of cameos in later campaigns)

If I had to give one piece of advice to DMs considering running DMPCs, it would be to ask yourself whether the PCs have already bonded with this character enough that they won't mind losing a small amount of spotlight to her. It's inevitable that a DMPC will steal some player thunder, even if it's just the occasional combat round. You might have the most well-developed character in the history of D&D, with a backstory that makes Tolkien look like a fourteen-year-old brony fanficcer, but she'll still detract from the players' experience if having her follow them around wasn't their idea. What made Ferrika work is that they chose her first and I developed her afterwards.

Quorothorn
2013-02-22, 07:54 PM
...I find myself agreeing with Doug Lampert, in that I wonder what exactly IS the dividing line between "NPC that, briefly or long-term, travels with the PCs" and "DMPC". Perhaps it is something that is more 'obvious' in practice. As a new DM, I'm pretty paranoid about such things, myself, since I want to run a good game and help everyone to have fun without making any of the "classic" DM errors (already made a number of mistakes, but overall the game's been going well according to my players). So, to me, the question of "where's the dividing line here?" is pretty important.

With all that said

A DM who runs a DMPC has lost the mandate of heaven.

-O

:smallbiggrin:

obryn
2013-02-22, 07:59 PM
Did you get that line from this RPGnet thread about obnoxious DMPCs (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?24873-Worst-GM-s-Pet-NPC&p=422316#post422316), or is it parallel evolution? (It's a fun thread, BTW.)
It may be 3rd generation. :smallsmile: A friend of mine who recently passed away (Maddman on various boards) said it once on Circvs Maximvs and it stuck with me. I think it describes it perfectly so I stole it!

-O

Driderman
2013-02-22, 08:33 PM
Isn't a DMPC basically just an NPC done wrong?

jindra34
2013-02-22, 09:40 PM
Isn't a DMPC basically just an NPC done wrong?

Kinda. Its not always done wrong. But it tends to be around whether the players want it to be or not.

kyoryu
2013-02-22, 09:42 PM
Isn't a DMPC basically just an NPC done wrong?

Arguably. The criteria I use is "if someone saw a game transcript, minus the player names, would they think the character was a PC?" If so, it's a DMPC.

killer_monk
2013-02-22, 09:50 PM
Lemme lay it down for ya like this:

The Good: DMPCs are, by default, safety nets for PCs. This means your PCs have that extra cushion around them to avoid death.

The Bad: That cushion can make the game boring and stupid. As well as the DM pretty much playing his own campaigns.

The Ugly: When the party gets tired of your DMPC and kills them. Then your hurt cause you lost your PC and your friends betrayed you, and they're bored cause you did everything for them.

The latter two CAN be avoided, but it's usually just more trouble than it's worth. There are few cases in which DMPCs actually work. Most of the time they just make people hate you. An example of them working is if you have your DMPC deliver fur coats to freezing PCs to save them from pure ignorance. Just make it random enough so they can't rely on you.

Moral of the story: only use DMPCs at the parties request, and even then try to avoid combat and plot line at all costs.

scurv
2013-02-22, 10:04 PM
Personal opinion on DM PC's. They are not there for the glory!

Practical use of a DM PC
They can be a useful fudge factor sometimes if you like keeping the group on the edge with almost to powerful encounters ( Yea my bad). And Occasionally they do make a useful clue-by-4 to pound the group with. (60 minuts of confused players before i use them. Keep in mind i provide much written material so when i say the clues are in your hands The clues you need are in your hands to solve it three ways from Sunday.)

But In general DMPC's should be wall flowers, Keep them low and out of sight and non marysue like.

<edit>
DM Pc is also useful in the groups that tend to lose chars often. More then one occasion Frank decided to stop guarding the wagon just in time to meet up with the group to see his buddy paul had died But I tend to view DM Pc's as diapers for groups, And hopefully they grow out of them by level 3 as well.

Raimun
2013-02-22, 10:04 PM
One DMPC was pretty cool. He filled the defender role of a D&D 4e party. No one else wanted to play defender.

He leveled as we leveled and had no "special powers" via GM fiat. He was supporting us by taking hits and bogging enemies to a halt. He didn't deal a lot of damage but our enemies sure respected his Mark. :smalltongue:

Amphetryon
2013-02-22, 10:32 PM
This falls under "communication". Unless you want to use the DMPC to dispense DM-given wisdom, tell them that's not what it's for.In my experience, telling the Players that the DMPC isn't using the Voice of God when offering input on actions in no way assures that the Players will believe or behave as if the DMPC isn't using the Voice of God.

Similarly, unless all rolls are done in the open, Players in my experience are less inclined to believe that a DMPC's luck (good or bad) is as rooted in the RNG as their own, or even as the monsters'.

Doug Lampert
2013-02-22, 10:59 PM
In my experience, telling the Players that the DMPC isn't using the Voice of God when offering input on actions in no way assures that the Players will believe or behave as if the DMPC isn't using the Voice of God.

Similarly, unless all rolls are done in the open, Players in my experience are less inclined to believe that a DMPC's luck (good or bad) is as rooted in the RNG as their own, or even as the monsters'.

Second on both points.

It's very hard for a GM to avoid having a DMPC or allied NPC say "are you sure about this" when he thinks something is a bad idea, and every time he does this it reinforces that the DMPC or allied NPC actually is the voice of God.

Bad idea. If you have a warning you aren't sure the NPC would give in character, then don't put it in the NPCs mouth. If the NPC gives advice then make sure the NPC gives bad advice when that seems appropriate, and be sure to tell people, "you realize that was crappy advice from an overconfident sociopath" the first time they decide to follow the advice anyway (the second time they're on their own).

I always roll in the open, and usually let a player roll for the allied NPCs, I've got enough on my plate without running NPC vs. NPC combat too. But if the GM is running both sides in part of a fight, it's not surprising that players feel that part of the fight may not be entirely kosher.

Rhynn
2013-02-22, 11:02 PM
...I find myself agreeing with Doug Lampert, in that I wonder what exactly IS the dividing line between "NPC that, briefly or long-term, travels with the PCs" and "DMPC".

Personal investment.

It's fine for players to be invested in their PCs a bit.

The DM cannot be invested in any NPC specifically. No, not even if they're really cool and you put a lot of work into them. This happens most with DMPCs and with BBEGs/villains. It's bad in both circumstances.

Basically, if you'd care at all about the PCs suddenly completely thrashing and humiliating the NPC, you're too invested.

hymer
2013-02-23, 03:13 AM
I think it's telling that we have such strong views on something we can't even agree over the definition on.
No wonder some people think DMPCs are bad, when their definition is 'An NPC that tags along and steals the spotlight and robs players of choices'. No wonder some people think DMPCs are good, when their definition is 'An NPC that fills a role the players can't meet right now, and so allow the game to go forward tonight.'

Rhynn
2013-02-23, 07:55 AM
No wonder some people think DMPCs are good, when their definition is 'An NPC that fills a role the players can't meet right now, and so allow the game to go forward tonight.'

Well, given that that definition does not actually differ at all from "henchman" or "NPC who joins the party", it's obviously not the correct definition for DMPC (the dungeon master's player character; NPC is non-player character).

Darius Kane
2013-02-23, 08:09 AM
In my games, when an DMPC says something, my players almost always do the complete opposite, or at least ignore him. It's kinda funny, because when I want to complicate their lives I just suggest through the DMPC the easiest path and can count on the players to disregard it. Reverse psychology FTW.

scurv
2013-02-23, 08:16 AM
In the guilt admitting aspect of this. Most of my NPC's I draw up with a program. Just because it is much easier to do it in advance. Then to need to imrprov something on the fly sometimes.

My groups tend to higher local guides so that gives me a chance to play test quite a few builds, But guides tend to stay in their own home town normally. So that keeps them nicely distances from being a DMPC normally. Although there has been a few times (And normaly at player request) That they wished to drag said npc with them further on. And on a few occasions said npc has become a players next pc when the unfortunate happens.( I also give the player one soft rewrite at that time, They can not change publicly used skills and feats, But if they want to tweek a few things I will permit it to be civil))

Rhynn
2013-02-23, 09:00 AM
In my games, when an DMPC says something, my players almost always do the complete opposite, or at least ignore him. It's kinda funny, because when I want to complicate their lives I just suggest through the DMPC the easiest path and can count on the players to disregard it. Reverse psychology FTW.

Shouldn't this be a warning sign that the players hate the DMPC and you shouldn't be using one? :smallconfused:

Ranting Fool
2013-02-23, 09:08 AM
I'm more then a little bias here due to always being the DM but I do think these are good points for any NPC



(1) They should not be of greater power than the PCs; someone like Gandalf fails this test more or less right away.
(2) They should not be simply better than one of the PCs in that PC's area of pride or expertise. If you have a Ranger in the party, don't add in a better Ranger. If your party's wizard prides himself as a loremaster, don't include a smarter loremaster.
(3) If the system allows it, they should not be built like PCs. (4e makes this easy, since it's the default; 3.5 makes this hard.) If they must be built like PCs, they should be limited or restricted as much as possible, and ideally kept very simple using a pretty limited class.
(4) Their presence in the party should be brief if they are of considerable value and not just there to fill a "role" gap - like "we need a healer" or "we need a rogue." Even if they are filling a gap, it's best to rotate them out and rotate another NPC in semi-regularly.
(5) This is the biggie for me - they should be controlled by the players during combat, with the DM keeping veto rights as appropriate for the NPC's personality and goals.



I tend to make a lot of NPC's who join the party for some reason or another (often because the PC's recruited them for some reason or other) in combat of almost always let the PC's control them in combat unless they are new and PC's don't know what class/spells/abilities they have yet. And would highly recommend transparency with dice rolls and DC's when NPC's stick around for more then one encounter :smalltongue:


Synovia your issues aren't with DMPCs. Its flat out with your trust level of the DM. If they decide that something will play out a certain way, or that something is the only option, that'll be it regardless of whether or not a DMPC is present.

@Synovia It does kind of come across that you feel it is imposable for a DM to run an NPC who acts only in character and anything they say or do is a reflection of how the DM has planned the season to go.

I always strive to have my NPC's act to their own agenda (even when I've really wished the PC's would stop agreeing with the NPC, which at least with my group happens a lot less then this thread makes out)

Raz the Half-Orc CN/CE Barbarian knew EXACTLY the best way to deal with a locked door or trap or wall or enemy "We should smash it!"

Malikai the Halfling Necromancer always wishes to subvert an enemy rather then direct conflict (excepting those druids who he'll want dead regardless of consequences)

Bailin "The Mad" Dwarf/Kobold/Orc (He's died an been reincarnated twice now) disliked all this planning and was a massive fan of "Lets just pick it up and see what it does!" or "Lets just charge them and leap across the bottomless chasm before they get away!"

Archibald the elven Archivist was often irritated by the party's lack of proper for-thought and planning though could be convinced to come along into danger as long as any and all clerical spells belonged to him and not put into the party loot to be split up.

And a few more, some lasted only a few sessions. Some became long running companions who wondered about with the party. Some became leaders of a community and the party seeks their advice when in the area. All had similar (but not identical) goals (or else why join the party) but very very different methods of getting them.

mjlush
2013-02-23, 10:09 AM
Alright so

Dungeon master player characters have been popping up in my sessions recently and I'm getting frustrated with how they know everything the DM knows. I've even seen my DM fudging rolls so his character gets good rolls, he has never gotten a nat 1

Anyone help me? Also, please share your opinions on the DMPCs.

I don't run a GMPC in my Marvel Superheros game ... my dog (Brook) has a character :smallsmile: its worked out pretty well he is playing a superpowerd/supergenius dog and basically he has to be pursuaded/bribed to get involved , he'd much rather raid the dustbins, sleep or bark at things only he can see. I think that is why he is a liked and accepted member of the party, he never upstages the PC, he thinks he is there sidekick... (for reasons too complex to go into the reality is that they are his sidekicks :smile:)

The main reason he was involved was the party needed a resident genius for plot reasons (the player who was going to fill that role had to drop out). I think that is the only reason to have a GMPC to provide a skill/abiliy needed for the plot... He is going to be the pilot in my coming Star Wars game IMHO pilot is a bit of a dud role you have to sink valuable skillpoints into starship pilot and astronavigation .... skills which will get used once every three sessions . He also won't mind sitting in the ship and keeping the engines running :-)

Calmar
2013-02-23, 10:57 AM
I used DMPCs twice (in one campaign). The first was an elven cleric whose sole purpose was to act as a healer to the characters of my small group of two players. He didn't do much talking and I wasn't very happy when my players sometimes hoped he could help them solve riddles or track down NPCs.

The second one was a rogue modron my players wanted very much to accompany them. This one was actually quite enjoyable for me, because the modron was literally on its own and didn't have any involvement with or first-hand knowledge about pretty much anything in the multiverse. :smallsmile:

In general I'm wary of using DMPCs. They are naturally not supposed to solve quests, so I don't see how they could become well-developed and useful characters and party members. I like it much more to have some NPC to stick around with the party for a session, or so, and then leave them again.

Darius Kane
2013-02-23, 11:12 AM
Shouldn't this be a warning sign that the players hate the DMPC and you shouldn't be using one? :smallconfused:
Nah. If they would hate him, they would tell me. I heard no complaints thus far. Some of them were even liked, as unbelievable as that sounds, and they still ignored their advice on principle, they just like to come up with their own plans.
No, it is a sign that players don't necessarily have to treat what DMPCs say as Word of God/Order/Railroading.

The Fury
2013-02-23, 01:42 PM
I dunno, I don't think DMPCs are necessarily a bad idea. I'll admit that I've seen DMPCs used in such a way where they were pretty much the main characters of the campaign, notably higher level than the party and optimized to the point of Mary Sue territory. At their worst DMPCs can and do make the player party feel like they're there just to carry the DMPC's luggage.
I've also seen DMPCs used in such a way that all they really do is pick up the slack in the party makeup. For example if the none of the players made a fighter the DM makes one so the first encounter is actually winnable. When used right DMPCs usually will leave decisions concerning the game's direction with the player party, maybe they'll sometimes know useful information but that's about it.
Thinking back to my own roleplaying career, most of the DMPCs I recall were of the kind that improved the game. There was the ditzy elven druid, the farm boy that my fighter was training in swordsmanship, the grumpy terse warrior and so on.

Doug Lampert
2013-02-23, 02:08 PM
Personal investment.

It's fine for players to be invested in their PCs a bit.

The DM cannot be invested in any NPC specifically. No, not even if they're really cool and you put a lot of work into them. This happens most with DMPCs and with BBEGs/villains. It's bad in both circumstances.

Basically, if you'd care at all about the PCs suddenly completely thrashing and humiliating the NPC, you're too invested.

That's a reasonable definition, I think it's what most people who don't like DMPCs are using, and if that's the definition then it's not a useful definition or term. In fact in my first post on this thread I said:

The best I can come up with is an NPC that the DM is emotionally invested in, and yeah, that's probably bad most of the time.

So clearly I agree that that is a possible definition.

But it's not a USEFUL definition. We both agree that an NPC the GM has an emotional investment in is a subtype of bad NPC, and if you DEFINE a DMPC as a subtype of bad NPC then of course they are bad NPCs. Tautalogies are true, but not usefully true.

"DMs should not be emotionally invested in NPCs" is good advice. Saying instead "DMPCs are bad" makes the advice less generally useful (as you point out, emotional investment in a BBEG is also bad), and it obscures the message since by the time you finish defining terms it turns out that a DMPC is a subtype of bad NPC. And it isn't at all surprising that a bad NPC is a bad NPC.

"Avoid bad NPCs", this is not a deep secret. Dressing it up with a term DMPC which seemingly has no definition better than "bad NPC nominally allied to the party where the NPC is bad specifically because GM is emotionally invested in the NPC" just doesn't make this statement any more useful or profound.

Define the term DMPC without putting in a hard requirement that it be a bad NPC, and it's not neccessarily a bad thing. Define it in terms that force it to be a bad NPC, and it is a bad thing.

The Fury
2013-02-23, 02:27 PM
Doug, just to throw in how I understand the term DMPC-- I always took it to mean "an NPC that fills a role in the player party." Maybe that's too broad of a definition?

Doug Lampert
2013-02-23, 03:01 PM
Doug, just to throw in how I understand the term DMPC-- I always took it to mean "an NPC that fills a role in the player party." Maybe that's too broad of a definition?

Too broad and too poorly defined I'd say. It hits things it shouldn't and misses things it needs to hit.

First: What's the role of a player in the party? As I've said, I've had NPCs that the players took the initiative in recruiting, and then voted into the party contract as full members, and that offered opinions, took an active role in combat, and even had solo adventures. So they MUST be DMPCs by that definition, but if I describe details then I'm told "that's just an NPC". Similarly a Cohort in 3.x is clearly an NPC (it's in the rules), and one that can clearly fill the rule of a player character in the party (probably the best use for leadership), but I don't think anyone would call a well played cohort a DMPC.

On the other hand the "overwhelmingly powerful NPC who accompanies the PCs and bosses them around" is broadly condemed as a DMPC, but I don't think that such a character fills the role of a PC in the party (I don't want a PC filling that role when I'm playing). Similarly, "character who knows everything that's happening and is perfectly prepared because his player read the GM notes and cheats" isn't really a reasonable role in the party, but that seems to be a DMPC if its being run by the DM.

There doesn't actually need to be a clear definition. "Red" or "Car" or "Dog" don't have clear definitions, yet we can discuss them.

But if you're going to argue "is this bad" then there at least needs to be some level of agreement on what "this" is. It needs to be the case that I can point at something and say "That is not red" or "That is a car" or "That was a dog till the car hit it" and have most people agree most of the time or you can't communicate. And I see no such agreement on DMPCs.

"NPC that fills a significant role in the party" can be good or bad. But the people who don't like DMPCs and who actually use the term seem to reject that definition since none of them would count a Cohort or the NPC my party recruited as a DMPC, and both clearly fit that.

The NPC from my last 4th ed campaign fits ANY definition I can come up with that doesn't depend on my emotional state or on my players feelings about the character or on the rules used to make the character. Which to me makes the term pretty well meaningless. Every definition I can come up with that doesn't make that NPC a DMPC doesn't describe the character, it describes how people feel about the character.

Rhynn
2013-02-23, 07:44 PM
But it's not a USEFUL definition. We both agree that an NPC the GM has an emotional investment in is a subtype of bad NPC, and if you DEFINE a DMPC as a subtype of bad NPC then of course they are bad NPCs. Tautalogies are true, but not usefully true.

It's not a tautology, it's shorthand. "DMPC" vs. "NPC the DM is invested in who also hangs out with the party all the time." One's short & quick, one's not.


Doug, just to throw in how I understand the term DMPC-- I always took it to mean "an NPC that fills a role in the player party." Maybe that's too broad of a definition?

That absolutely is too broad a definition, because those are called NPCs, henchmen, hirelings, and followers in, say, the 2E PHB and DMG (and earlier editions). They're not DMPCs at all.

saxavarius
2013-02-23, 10:50 PM
I've only had one DM that had a PC in a campaign and he only used meta-knowledge once, and that was after 15 minutes of which hallway we should go down. He actually screwed up two encounters because he separated DM knowledge/desire and character action/motives.

So DMPCs can work but only if the DM will keep metagame knowledge away from character action.

The Fury
2013-02-23, 11:12 PM
Too broad and too poorly defined I'd say. It hits things it shouldn't and misses things it needs to hit.

First: What's the role of a player in the party? As I've said, I've had NPCs that the players took the initiative in recruiting, and then voted into the party contract as full members, and that offered opinions, took an active role in combat, and even had solo adventures. So they MUST be DMPCs by that definition, but if I describe details then I'm told "that's just an NPC". Similarly a Cohort in 3.x is clearly an NPC (it's in the rules), and one that can clearly fill the rule of a player character in the party (probably the best use for leadership), but I don't think anyone would call a well played cohort a DMPC.

On the other hand the "overwhelmingly powerful NPC who accompanies the PCs and bosses them around" is broadly condemed as a DMPC, but I don't think that such a character fills the role of a PC in the party (I don't want a PC filling that role when I'm playing). Similarly, "character who knows everything that's happening and is perfectly prepared because his player read the GM notes and cheats" isn't really a reasonable role in the party, but that seems to be a DMPC if its being run by the DM.

There doesn't actually need to be a clear definition. "Red" or "Car" or "Dog" don't have clear definitions, yet we can discuss them.

But if you're going to argue "is this bad" then there at least needs to be some level of agreement on what "this" is. It needs to be the case that I can point at something and say "That is not red" or "That is a car" or "That was a dog till the car hit it" and have most people agree most of the time or you can't communicate. And I see no such agreement on DMPCs.

"NPC that fills a significant role in the party" can be good or bad. But the people who don't like DMPCs and who actually use the term seem to reject that definition since none of them would count a Cohort or the NPC my party recruited as a DMPC, and both clearly fit that.

The NPC from my last 4th ed campaign fits ANY definition I can come up with that doesn't depend on my emotional state or on my players feelings about the character or on the rules used to make the character. Which to me makes the term pretty well meaningless. Every definition I can come up with that doesn't make that NPC a DMPC doesn't describe the character, it describes how people feel about the character.



That absolutely is too broad a definition, because those are called NPCs, henchmen, hirelings, and followers in, say, the 2E PHB and DMG (and earlier editions). They're not DMPCs at all.

Ah, I see then. I tend to think of NPCs as being the characters that live in towns and don't follow the players around. Guys like shopkeeps, guards and tavern tavern girls and such. I suppose that if they followed the player party around they would still be NPCs, I must have been thinking of the square vs. rectangle thing. Y'know, a DMPC is always an NPC but an NPC is not necessarily a DMPC, but I guess that's not right at all.
Semantics aside I think most of us can agree that an NPC that the party approaches and recruits on their own terms is fine, while an NPC that's allied with the party and dictates their direction and sidelines the PCs isn't. That said, thanks for explaining the terminology to me better.

killem2
2013-02-23, 11:31 PM
I think they are great if you can manage the load of extra dice rolling.

Metagaming has never become an issue with me as a DM. However, managing more bodies on top of trying to play became difficult so I had to let my PC go.



Isn't a DMPC basically just an NPC done wrong?

No, a DMPC is actually just a PC, its only the internet snobs that tack on DM as if it means a damn thing.

I played a focused specialist evoker with my group for a few months. They loved it, they had a great time, I had a great time and he only died when we started getting so many people playing that I couldn't enjoy playing the little gnome as much as I did.

While I was playing though, it was really fun.


As far as the opinions of it, you won't hear many positives here.

1. People don't want to hear about success stories, the internet is the breeding ground of the emo-woes-is-me thought process.

2. More than likely the Dungeon Masters who have made their own PC can't be bothered to tell about it because their group has no issue with it and they are all having a good time to interrupt to go on the internet and talk about it.

3. People seem to think just because you are the DM you are not able to stop yourself from meta gaming.

Rhynn
2013-02-23, 11:39 PM
Ah, I see then. I tend to think of NPCs as being the characters that live in towns and don't follow the players around. Guys like shopkeeps, guards and tavern tavern girls and such. I suppose that if they followed the player party around they would still be NPCs, I must have been thinking of the square vs. rectangle thing.

Any character that isn't a player character (PC) is a non-player character (NPC). This includes the villains, technically at least any enemy with a personality and the ability to communicate, the barmaid, party members' families, any hirelings and followers tagging along, etc.

I guess your understanding may have been confused by computer games (directly or indirectly) ?


Y'know, a DMPC is always an NPC but an NPC is not necessarily a DMPC, but I guess that's not right at all.

Some would say this is the case, that DMPC is a subset of NPC, but I think there's a stronger separation, and that it's even implied by the terminology: "dungeon master player character" doesn't sound like a subset of "non-player character" to me, but a variation of "player character."


Semantics aside I think most of us can agree that an NPC that the party approaches and recruits on their own terms is fine, while an NPC that's allied with the party and dictates their direction and sidelines the PCs isn't. That said, thanks for explaining the terminology to me better.

Absolutely, yes. IMHO, if an NPC joins the party on a permanent basis, it should be at the wishes of the party, not because the DM goes "hay guys I made a PC too he is part of the party."

pres_man
2013-02-24, 12:11 AM
Definition of DMPC:
1: a character that if it was run by a non-DM would be considered a PC; a special kind of Ally (see p. 104 of the 3.5 DMG)
2: (derogatory) any character used by a DM that disrupts the game

The Fury
2013-02-24, 12:43 AM
I guess your understanding may have been confused by computer games (directly or indirectly) ?


Could be. Though it got me wondering if characters like the farmboy that my fighter trained could properly be called DMPCs at all.


Definition of DMPC:
1: a character that if it was run by a non-DM would be considered a PC; a special kind of Ally (see p. 104 of the 3.5 DMG)


I guess by that definition he could.

The mention of "cohorts" and "followers" was a little confusing because normally those join the party after someone takes the Leadership feat.

Rhynn
2013-02-24, 12:46 AM
Could be. Though it got me wondering if characters like the farmboy that my fighter trained could properly be called DMPCs at all. The mention of "cohorts" and "followers" was a little confusing because normally those join the party after someone takes the Leadership feat.

Doesn't sound like a DMPC, and cohorts and followers are all NPCs, generally. Unless the DM specifically lets you completely control and roleplay your cohort and never overrides your decision to have the cohort selflessly charge the red wyrm to save everyone else...

Older editions of D&D had a more open system of NPC followers. Parties regularly recruited henchmen (a specific PC's follower with a class and levels who gets a half-share of XP), as well as hirelings (usually 0-level men who don't gain XP, although they may graduate to 1st-level fighters at the DM's option on surviving long enough).

Felandria
2013-02-24, 01:05 AM
I think the main trick to running a DMPC is to make certain he's a support character. Do NOT give him the spotlight. Ever. That's what the PCs are for

I've currently got a Fighter DMPC I'm running. I always make certain to keep him a level or two under the other PCs, and I don't give him any flashy abilities or equipment. He doesn't suggest ideas (unless the PCs are stumped and need a hint), he doesn't lead negotiations, and he doesn't have plot-relevant backstory. There are no situations where his skills (and only his skills) are critical to success.

The players like him because he's always there to lend a hand in combat, but he doesn't outshine them, or take the spotlight away.

As long as you keep the focus on the PCs, having a DMPC will probably work out okay.

I've also read about a cleric DMPC who was well-loved by the party he was in, but again, he played a supporting role, not a leading role.

Edit: And don't fudge dice rolls to favor your DMPC. If he dies, he dies, and you can make up another one. If you ever get to the point where you are tempted to "cheat" to keep your DMPC alive, it's probably time for him to go.

Okay, so I'm preparing to DM my first campaign.

Basically I'm setting it twenty years after the last campaign, the party will all be new 5th level characters, but they will meet in the same tavern we started in before, which is now owned by our old characters, or at least the ones who would be around.

I will be running a character, they will meet him in the tavern where he will offer them work.

He'll take them to a portal underneath the tavern where he will take them to Olympus to meet their new boss.

Felandria.

She needs a new party to carry on the duties of defending the gates she and the party were protecting in the previous campaign, but since there is no immediate threat (YET), she will send them on smaller quests to prove their worth, and she will send her associate with them, partly as support, partly to keep an eye on them, making sure they're not scummy or otherwise unworthy of such an important task.

Liam McKenzie is a bard who fancies himself a rock star, think a cross between Russell Brand and the lead singer of The Darkness, and he'll be there mainly for buffs and healing (and comic relief)

I don't intend to put him in the spotlight, he's going to be backup.

And if someone else ends up joining the party, they always have the option of taking him over and using him.

pres_man
2013-02-24, 01:44 AM
Okay, so I'm preparing to DM my first campaign.

Basically I'm setting it twenty years after the last campaign, the party will all be new 5th level characters, but they will meet in the same tavern we started in before, which is now owned by our old characters, or at least the ones who would be around.

I will be running a character, they will meet him in the tavern where he will offer them work.

He'll take them to a portal underneath the tavern where he will take them to Olympus to meet their new boss.

Felandria.

She needs a new party to carry on the duties of defending the gates she and the party were protecting in the previous campaign, but since there is no immediate threat (YET), she will send them on smaller quests to prove their worth, and she will send her associate with them, partly as support, partly to keep an eye on them, making sure they're not scummy or otherwise unworthy of such an important task.

Liam McKenzie is a bard who fancies himself a rock star, think a cross between Russell Brand and the lead singer of The Darkness, and he'll be there mainly for buffs and healing (and comic relief)

I don't intend to put him in the spotlight, he's going to be backup.

And if someone else ends up joining the party, they always have the option of taking him over and using him.

I would say, any concern I have isn't about a DM run character so much as having the party's arms bent behind their backs forcing them to do stuff.

Why not instead make it "he'll offer them an opportunity to work for a powerful being." And "she will ask them to help her in defending the gates when needed. She also has some suggestions on some opportunities for them to seek out some goals they may have using her expanded knowledge."

Felandria
2013-02-24, 03:36 AM
I would say, any concern I have isn't about a DM run character so much as having the party's arms bent behind their backs forcing them to do stuff.

Why not instead make it "he'll offer them an opportunity to work for a powerful being." And "she will ask them to help her in defending the gates when needed. She also has some suggestions on some opportunities for them to seek out some goals they may have using her expanded knowledge."

Yeah, the gates won't come into play for a while, think of it like Burn Notice.

The party will have smaller quests every week, but there's an overarching plot in play as well.

hymer
2013-02-24, 03:59 AM
Well, given that that definition does not actually differ at all from "henchman" or "NPC who joins the party", it's obviously not the correct definition for DMPC (the dungeon master's player character; NPC is non-player character).

There is no definitive definition for DMPC (it's after all not a game term or a word you'd find in a reputable dictionary), or for that matter for 'NPC who joins the party' (since that isn't a figure of speech, so much as a definition in itself). You may well disagree with one or many definitions of DMPC, but everyone would do that.
Which is the point I was trying to make: A lot of the disagreement here stems from not agreeing about what we're even discussing.

huttj509
2013-02-24, 05:27 AM
There is no definitive definition for DMPC (it's after all not a game term or a word you'd find in a reputable dictionary), or for that matter for 'NPC who joins the party' (since that isn't a figure of speech, so much as a definition in itself). You may well disagree with one or many definitions of DMPC, but everyone would do that.
Which is the point I was trying to make: A lot of the disagreement here stems from not agreeing about what we're even discussing.

As an example, I've seen in other discussions the idea put forth that if it's not causing an issue, it's not a DMPC, because the debater considered "causes an issue" as part of the DEFINITION of DMPC, as opposed to a possible result of a DMPC.

Jay R
2013-02-24, 12:55 PM
A PC is a player's only method of interaction with the invented world. That is not true of any DMPC.

A PC sometimes picks something up not knowing whether or not it's cursed. That is not true of any DMPC.

A PC sometimes does something that the DM knows is impossible, and will not work. That is not true of any DMPC.

A PC does not know what is behind the door she's about to open. That is not true of any DMPC.

A PC sometimes has to live with decisions that the player believes are unfair. That is not true of any DMPC.

Calling one of the characters the DM runs a DMPC doesn't make it a PC. It's a unique thing. Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing. But not a PC.

Scow2
2013-02-24, 01:18 PM
I see the DMPC as a character the GM controls and has comparable interest in as a player would.

The Fury
2013-02-24, 01:21 PM
Which is the point I was trying to make: A lot of the disagreement here stems from not agreeing about what we're even discussing.

Agreed. Unfortunately I don't think we're likely to hammer out a definition to everyone's satisfaction here.

I guess an amendment to make for my own definition of a DMPC would be "NPC which travels with the party, has PC class levels, takes an active enough role in party actions and is intended to be with the party long-term enough to require a character sheet." It seems like a character like that could actually be a useful tool for the DM and the party both, again assuming that said character joined the party on agreeable terms. An NPC like that could provide exposition on setting details when they're needed and fulfill some role in the party in smaller groups. When said NPC, (DMPC?) is used that way I consider that a good thing.


As an example, I've seen in other discussions the idea put forth that if it's not causing an issue, it's not a DMPC, because the debater considered "causes an issue" as part of the DEFINITION of DMPC, as opposed to a possible result of a DMPC.

For my part "Causing an issue" seems too sweeping of a condemnation for any character type to be part of the definition. Not to say that this never happens or even seldom happens.

pres_man
2013-02-24, 05:04 PM
Jay, you are confusing the people playing the game, with the characters in the game.


A PC is a player's only method of interaction with the invented world. That is not true of any DMPC.

This is not always true, depending on the group, players may be able to also use familiars, animal companions, mounts, cohorts, and followers. Maybe if your group does not allow this, you might want to consider it.


A PC sometimes picks something up not knowing whether or not it's cursed. That is not true of any DMPC.

A DMPC doesn't know either, but the person running it (i.e. the DM) might (it could be the DM hasn't actually rolled yet for a chance of an item being cursed). The question is whether the action would be in character for the DMPC, if yes then it should pick it up, if no then it should not. Of course this is true for all characters.


A PC sometimes does something that the DM knows is impossible, and will not work. That is not true of any DMPC.

A player may try to have their character attempt an impossible task, that is usually because the player doesn't know the rules. Blaming a DM for the knowing the rules better seems a strange position to take. If you mean instead attempting something that will fail, well again a DM should ask themselves (like a person running a character) would this make sense from the character's perspective, then try it, if not then don't.


A PC does not know what is behind the door she's about to open. That is not true of any DMPC.

Again, the player and the PC don't know maybe (or maybe the player has played the module before and does actually know), but the DMPC doesn't know either even though the DM might (again, there could be some random rolling involved). The character should act as appropriate for the character.


A PC sometimes has to live with decisions that the player believes are unfair. That is not true of any DMPC.

A player has to live with game rules they might think are unfair, a PC deals with the laws of the universe they exist in as does the DMPC. Yes a DM might find the rulings fair. If you feel so abused as a player, I would suggest your group take game rulings as committee decisions. Sure in the game, let the DM decide for the moment, but after the game and before the next session let everyone weigh in on the issue and they decide based on majority vote. Just remember, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.


Calling one of the characters the DM runs a DMPC doesn't make it a PC. It's a unique thing. Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing. But not a PC.

Calling a character a DMPC doesn't mean the DM is going to have the exact same experience as a player running a PC. But then players that know the MM by heart (perhaps DM in their own right) or have played through modules before, etc. aren't going to have the same experience either.


I see the DMPC as a character the GM controls and has comparable interest in as a player would.

See I don't like definitions like this because it is all about subjective "interest". What if as a player I don't really get hung up on my character, a la Blackleaf style, and instead try to play it as much in character as I can possibly do. But if it dies, I don't cry or throw a tantrum, but instead say, "Well time to get roll up that other crazy idea I've had." Because that is how I DM and how I play, does that make my PCs not really PCs because I have as much "comparable interest" in them as a DM has?

Amidus Drexel
2013-02-24, 05:28 PM
What follows is how I personally see a DMPC (Dungeon Master Player Character): as a Character controlled by the Dungeon Master, that acts with the same agency as a Player. That's taking a literal look at the term.

A DMPC is a plot device, just like any important NPC; the only difference is the level of their involvement with the party. Good DM's can use them to great effect; horrible DM's will use them, well... horribly. That goes for nearly any plot device. The fact that they have player-like agency only magnifies the impact they have on the game: they can seem very good when done well, or be very bad when done poorly.

Saying that they are inherently bad means that we are operating under different assumptions of a DMPC's purpose.

To wit:
There is no definitive definition for DMPC (it's after all not a game term or a word you'd find in a reputable dictionary), or for that matter for 'NPC who joins the party' (since that isn't a figure of speech, so much as a definition in itself). You may well disagree with one or many definitions of DMPC, but everyone would do that.
Which is the point I was trying to make: A lot of the disagreement here stems from not agreeing about what we're even discussing.

Pretty much sums up this thread.


A DM who runs a DMPC has lost the mandate of heaven.

-O

I was always under the impression that a DM received his mandates from Hell... :smallamused:

Exediron
2013-02-26, 02:07 AM
You are confusing the people playing the game, with the characters in the game.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Someone understands! :smallsmile:

In my main group - which I freely admit is highly irregular, but is still a functioning group - I am the overall DM. We have a single sort-of master plot, which is my responsibility, but take turns running smaller campaigns - episodes, if you will - in the world with the same party. The campaigns of the other two players don't touch on the main plot, but otherwise they're of equal status to my own. In this way, you could say that we're all DMs.

I play about half the characters in this group total (out of 3 players), but at any time at least a quarter or so are being controlled by the player who is running the campaign. This does not cause any problems, for reasons I will proceed to elaborate upon.

First, my take on the basic issue [what follows is my opinion; it may be worded strongly in places, but it is not intended to represent universal truth, merely my position on an issue]:

What is a DMPC:

A DMPC is a character played by the player who happens to also be the DM. This person plays the character(s) in their role as a player, not in their role as a DM. This is an important distinction to make.

The DM as a Player:

The core principle of a DM-controlled PC (DMPC) is that the DM is actually a player in their own campaign. This requires a rigorous separation of roles which admittedly some DMs are not very good at.

When playing in your own campaign, you must push all the responsibilities and knowledge of your DM role to the back of your mind and not access them while thinking or acting as your character. Doing this perfectly probably isn't possible unless you're skilled at meditation or mental discipline beyond the norm, but with practice a functioning version can easily be achieved. It's really no different than switching mindset when voicing a different character if you're playing two.

So although the knowledge is still in your head - you can't do anything about that, and you'll need it soon enough anyway - you just don't use it. Make decisions with the knowledge your character has; you'd be doing that anyway as a player, presumably. Then when it's time to resolve something as the DM, you slip back into the DM role and view your own characters just as any other PCs, with no special treatment either way.

The DMPC and the NPC:

So then when is a fully functional character who travels with the party an NPC and not a DMPC? When that character is played by the role of the DM. If the character's purpose in the party is to move the plot along, to provide help to the party, to betray the party - anything like that, that character is an NPC. They are being played as an extension of the plot, and as such are being played by the DM, not the player the DM is also.

In short: If a character interacts with the plot, they are a player character. If they are a part of the plot, they are a non-player character. It is possible for a character to cross over roles any number of times. For example, if the party passes through a ruined village and encounters a lone survivor named Randolph who hid from the raiders and saw it all happen, and then joins with him to bring the raiders to justice, Randolph is an NPC - he exists to move the plot along. If after the quest is done with and Randolph is still alive the party decides they like him and invite him to join them on their next adventure (in which he has no guiding role), he becomes a PC run by the player who happens to also be the DM. If this next adventure is brought before the group by the party cleric Lydriel whose home castle has just been taken over by orcs, she will likely become an NPC for the duration of the adventure, even if she continues to travel with the party.

The line becomes hazier if the DM chooses to (or has to) use another player's character to instigate their plot; that character can't become an NPC because their player is not also the DM. However, I don't really approve of feeding another player's character lines so that they can start the party on an adventure; I think you should start an adventure with your own characters or NPCs, or by subjecting the party to circumstances - or by just laying out the adventure and letting them choose their own way in it, or whatever your own preferred method happens to be. In the above example, if Lydriel was not the DM's character I would arrange it so that she didn't know anything about what had happened beyond the most basic. Otherwise you have to tell the player what to say, in essence, and I don't hold with turning your players into parrots.

Not Perfect:

Playing a character in your own campaign is not, and never can be, a perfect facsimile for playing in another. Circumstances will crop up that are you and yourself; your character talking to your NPC, your character solving your riddle, etc. These should be avoided. The system only works if the DM/Player is aware of what to avoid and good at doing so. DMPCs should still avoid solo interactions with NPCs or really solo activity at all. In general, it is accepted in my group that if the only character involved is played by the DM and no one else is able to observe, the outcome is simply determined internally and not played out. If the conversation occurs with the rest nearby but not talking for some reason (not ideal), there's really no way around it.

Conclusion:

DMPCs are not for every group, but with a good DM and players who accept the solution they can work very well. They are particularly useful - vital, even - in groups with a very small player count, such as my own 3-person group. They also work better in interaction-heavy groups instead of puzzle-heavy groups (mine also falls under this heading). Recently, while clearing a massive dungeon I designed, I became frustrated by all the times my characters made up the majority of the group tackling a riddle or puzzle, and none of them could speak up even if they were smart enough. If the others are obviously stumped and I have a smart character present I'll eventually have them solve it, but otherwise I'd prefer to give clues via rolls from the other players. It's just not very satisfying to solve your own riddles, and it's a darned hard roleplaying challenge to come up with incorrect but plausible solutions to your own puzzles.

It's also important to make it clear to your players that your characters are not you, and they are fallible - just because my character suggests it in my campaign does not mean it's a good idea. Or a bad idea. It just means it's my character's idea.

Basically, to quote Klaatu: We have a system - and it works. DMPCs may not work for your hypothetical group, but they've been working for my group for 10 years, and you don't have to look far to find others with successful stories. I think sometimes there's an atmosphere on these forums that when an idea is established among the forum-goers (Tiers, E6, DMPCs, etc.) it is unchallengeable despite what any outsider might say. The good is drowned out by the bad, repeated ad nauseum until it ceases to be opinion and becomes dogma.

--=-=--

That's all I've got to say on the topic right now. I could write an essay, but I don't think anybody wants to read that :smallwink:

Serpentine
2013-02-26, 03:29 AM
Only skimmed the first and last pages, but it's really nice to see such a moderate discussion about DMPCs :smallsmile: Barely a "DMPCs are always bad" in sight!
Looks like everyone's pretty much got it all under control...
For reference: I'm in the "DMPCs can be a complete disaster, but can also be a positive addition" camp, and also of the "I know this because when these threads got me all paranoid about my own DMPC I tried to kill her off and my players wouldn't let me, even when I paused the game and told them what I was doing" variety.
Been thinking about doing a Guide to DMPCs, but I think someone like inexorabletruth might be better at it than me.

Killer Angel
2013-02-26, 04:21 AM
I was always under the impression that a DM received his mandates from Hell... :smallamused:

A DM receives his mandates from players, so it all depends on the alignment of the group... :smallwink:


Only skimmed the first and last pages, but it's really nice to see such a moderate discussion about DMPCs :smallsmile: Barely a "DMPCs are always bad" in sight!

Oh my... your right.
DMPCs are always bad! ALWAYS, I say!!! :smalltongue:

Amphetryon
2013-02-26, 10:16 AM
This is not always true, depending on the group, players may be able to also use familiars, animal companions, mounts, cohorts, and followers. Maybe if your group does not allow this, you might want to consider it.Those are all aspects of a given Player's specific Character, including potential Feats. They don't change the basic point that - excepting seemingly rare circumstances where Players run multiple PCs - not NPCs - Players have a Character with which to interact with the world, whereas DMs have the world with which to interact with the world.

Jay R
2013-02-26, 12:06 PM
Jay, you are confusing the people playing the game, with the characters in the game.

No, I'm not, but I admit that I wrote it too quickly, and left it possible for somebody to think so.



A PC is a player's only method of interaction with the invented world. That is not true of any DMPC.This is not always true, depending on the group, players may be able to also use familiars, animal companions, mounts, cohorts, and followers. Maybe if your group does not allow this, you might want to consider it.

Red herring duly noted. My current character 2E elf mage/thief has a familiar, a horse, a henchman, 16 followers, an army of 4,000, and a county full of subjects.

Meanwhile, let's get back to the point you were avoiding. All of these exist because my PC cast Find Familiar, bought a horse, drew a Knight Card from a Deck of Many Things, reached tenth level thief, recruited an army, and helped put the king on the throne. They all came from my PC's interaction with the invented world.

By contrast, the player running a DMPC is also running all the NPCs in the world. No resemblance.



A PC sometimes picks something up not knowing whether or not it's cursed. That is not true of any DMPC.A DMPC doesn't know either, but the person running it (i.e. the DM) might (it could be the DM hasn't actually rolled yet for a chance of an item being cursed). The question is whether the action would be in character for the DMPC, if yes then it should pick it up, if no then it should not. Of course this is true for all characters.

As you already pointed out, I meant that the player knows. Meanwhile, your use of the phrase "it could be" is proof that the situation I'm talking about actually can occur. And if it does, then the player playing the DMPC already knows that it's cursed, and what the curse is, and how it can be lifted. Even if he decides that the DMPC picks it up because it's in character, picking up a curse knowing it's a curse is fundamentally different from picking it up and finding out it's cursed. Furthermore, the player running the DMPC already knows all the possible effects of the curse, and how it can be removed, and whether somebody in the next town is high enough level to remove it, and what that person would want in exchange. He is not in the same position as the player whose character picked up a curse that he knows nothing about.

And by the way, you seem convinced that being "in character" means there is no choice to make. I don't find this true of myself or the people I meet, and it's not true of a D&D character either. There are rarely situations in which I can't find at least two equally valid options while remaining "in character". The DM might have to do this while knowing that one of the options will kill the DMPC. However he decides to act, it's a fundamentally different decision than that of a player with a PC, who is trying to determine which is the safest way.



A PC sometimes does something that the DM knows is impossible, and will not work. That is not true of any DMPC.A player may try to have their character attempt an impossible task, that is usually because the player doesn't know the rules. Blaming a DM for the knowing the rules better seems a strange position to take. If you mean instead attempting something that will fail, well again a DM should ask themselves (like a person running a character) would this make sense from the character's perspective, then try it, if not then don't.

"Usually" means that you are avoiding a point you know is true. The thief who attempts to flank not knowing about the hidden enemy, the person who jumps down onto a ledge which is too loose to hold, the archer firing at somebody with protection from normal missiles, and the wizard using an illusion on an enemy with True Sight, are all trying something impossible, not because they don't know the game, but because they only know what their eyes have shown them.

These situations happen. They really do.

But not to a DMPC, except by choice.



A PC does not know what is behind the door she's about to open. That is not true of any DMPC.Again, the player and the PC don't know maybe (or maybe the player has played the module before and does actually know), but the DMPC doesn't know either even though the DM might (again, there could be some random rolling involved). The character should act as appropriate for the character.

If there is random rolling, then the experience is fundamentally different from one in which a real player would decide



A PC sometimes has to live with decisions that the player believes are unfair. That is not true of any DMPC.A player has to live with game rules they might think are unfair, a PC deals with the laws of the universe they exist in as does the DMPC.

I said "decisions", not rules.


. Yes a DM might find the rulings fair. If you feel so abused as a player, I would suggest your group take game rulings as committee decisions. Sure in the game, let the DM decide for the moment, but after the game and before the next session let everyone weigh in on the issue and they decide based on majority vote. Just remember, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

No, I do not feel abused as a player, although I am occasionally frustrated when the DM makes rulings different from how I would have made them. But that's part of the game. And it's fair, because all players are in the same situation.

Except the guy running the DMPC.



Calling one of the characters the DM runs a DMPC doesn't make it a PC. It's a unique thing. Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing. But not a PC.Calling a character a DMPC doesn't mean the DM is going to have the exact same experience as a player running a PC. But then players that know the MM by heart (perhaps DM in their own right) or have played through modules before, etc. aren't going to have the same experience either.

That doesn't change my point one iota. The DMPC's player knows the things that real players have to find out through experimentation and interaction. They aren't playing the same game.

Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing. But not a PC.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-26, 12:59 PM
Meanwhile, let's get back to the point you were avoiding. All of these exist because my PC cast Find Familiar, bought a horse, drew a Knight Card from a Deck of Many Things, reached tenth level thief, recruited an army, and helped put the king on the throne. They all came from my PC's interaction with the invented world.

It's irrelevant how they got there provided you dictate their actions at all. Especially since it's not even a good definition. In PTA, it's certainly suggested to give players the same leeway in determining actions with their starter pokemon as it is with their PC. In Bliss Stage, you have at least two PCs. In Legends of the Wulin, you can spend experience - both your own, and that of other players' characters or even NPCs - to alter the story's elements, adding or subtracting as seems plausible within the genre.

So if a PC is defined as 'the player's only way to deal with the world', then a lot of games don't have one. Relatedly, 'direct evidence that contradicts your point' is not a red herring. However, calling it a red herring to get people to stop focusing on the fact that it's a breach of your model is an actual red herring e.g. an irrelevant distraction from the point at hand, placed deliberately by the author to confuse the issue.


No, I do not feel abused as a player, although I am occasionally frustrated when the DM makes rulings different from how I would have made them. But that's part of the game. And it's fair, because all players are in the same situation.

Except the guy running the DMPC.

From an adversarial point of view, the person running the game always benefits from this, and any judgement in favor of NPCs is suspect. Either you accept it and move on, or not - it doesn't really apply much more for having a PC than it does any other recurring character.


But not to a DMPC, except by choice.

And if you're playing an adversarial tactics wargame, that might be an issue to you. It's not to everyone, though.


Furthermore, the player running the DMPC already knows all the possible effects of the curse, and how it can be removed, and whether somebody in the next town is high enough level to remove it, and what that person would want in exchange. He is not in the same position as the player whose character picked up a curse that he knows nothing about.
If you see the point of RPGs as playing like Nethack, that is a real issue, yeah.



That doesn't change my point one iota. The DMPC's player knows the things that real players have to find out through experimentation and interaction. They aren't playing the same game.

Unless the players do, in fact, find out through methods that aren't experimentation and interaction. Not everyone is playing like it's Nethack. Also: Not an issue unless you solve mysteries or puzzles for them.



Been thinking about doing a Guide to DMPCs, but I think someone like inexorabletruth might be better at it than me.

There's really not much to say besides "Don't seek the spotlight" and "If it's not fun for the other players, stop". "Don't suck", maybe. It definitely helps to actually talk to your players about the game. You could probably expand 'don't suck' with talk about not crowding out the players, absolutely not making anything within their mechanical specialization without their explicit permission, and other things, I suppose.


Dungeon master player characters have been popping up in my sessions recently and I'm getting frustrated with how they know everything the DM knows. I've even seen my DM fudging rolls so his character gets good rolls, he has never gotten a nat 1

Presumably, you're all adults or near it. Speak with the other people at the table like reasonable adults/teens and try to air out your grievance, would be step one.

Exediron
2013-02-26, 03:32 PM
But not to a DMPC, except by choice.

This comment seems to me to be the crux of the issue. It's true. But why is it a problem?

On some level, yes - the DM is choosing not to use his or her knowledge while playing their character. But I don't understand why - to you - that makes them invalid. If you're playing a module you've already been through, you're doing the same. If you're playing some sort of past/future crossover where your character arrives at Los Alamos with no idea what anything there does, you're doing the same. If your character is a barbarian who doesn't understand physics and tries to make a bridge, you're doing the same. Any time your knowledge exceeds that of your character, you're doing exactly the same thing the DM is. The only difference is that the DM is doing it all the time.

Unless the point of the game is purely puzzle solving, discovery and information gathering, I don't see why this is such an issue. Sure, the DM might not enjoy playing in his own campaign as much as the other players do, but provided he does his job properly that won't cause them an issue. It's just an added responsibility for the DM, and should be invisible to the outside. If you doubt that a DM can manage to keep his characters from using his knowledge, my experience says you're wrong.

Talakeal
2013-02-26, 04:25 PM
Ok, so I have a quick question for advocates of DMPCs.

Would you mind if one of the players at your group was playing X-box at the same time as the RPG? And I don't mean casually playing while waiting for their turn, I mean being fully immersed in both and trying to divide their time and attention between the two games.

Second, would you mind if a player pulled out your adventure notes / monster manuals / adventure module and thoroughly studies them while at the table, if they promised they were mature and could handle it and wouldn't meta game and didn't care about surprises anyway.

Third, would you mind one player who always took twice as long taking their turns as everyone else, and insisted on having twice the spotlight time as any other PC out of combat? And who, if they don't get things their way (for example first pick of the loot) have the capability to hold the entire party hostage on a whim.

I sure as heck wouldn't like any of those things, and by running a DMPC I am by inserting a PC into the game who is in effect doing them all.


Edit: This of course assumes the DM is going for anything resembling the full experiance of being a PC rather than just having a guy who follows the party around and occasionally pops into existence for a moment like Blackwing. But if that is the case, I don't know why the DM is bothering with a DMPC in the first place when it would be simpler to just let the PCs run hirelings and henchmen.

jindra34
2013-02-26, 04:49 PM
Talakeal: You've pretty much pointed out most of the issues with DMPC's, namely that the game will break down if the DM starts treating them in a manner far different from other NPCs. And why bother using a similar (yet relatively, omni-present) NPC for the job, the answer is loyalties and goals, namely when such a character would not have the PCs best interests in mind, at which point an associated NPC is obviously not the right choice. This does mean such NPCs are story based, and as such removable should the party chose to make a concerted effort to do so.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-26, 05:00 PM
Would you mind if one of the players at your group was playing X-box at the same time as the RPG? And I don't mean casually playing while waiting for their turn, I mean being fully immersed in both and trying to divide their time and attention between the two games.
Playing a PC at the same time as being a GM is in fact, not equivalent to playing a video game with one's full attention while at the table, but the silly analogy is noted.


Second, would you mind if a player pulled out your adventure notes / monster manuals / adventure module and thoroughly studies them while at the table, if they promised they were mature and could handle it and wouldn't meta game and didn't care about surprises anyway.
I'd be rather perturbed about not asking politely first, so there's that. But to the question you're actually asking, no, not really. I'm not playing it like it's nethack, nor am I running it that way. (Also really, really, really inapplicable to how I run things, but I'm going to pretend you listed structure that matters to me for the sake of argument)


Third, would you mind one player who always took twice as long taking their turns as everyone else, and insisted on having twice the spotlight time as any other PC out of combat? And who, if they don't get things their way (for example first pick of the loot) have the capability to hold the entire party hostage on a whim.
If a game runner really is doing those things, it's a serious problem, yes indeed. It's also not a requisite to having a GM's PC.


I sure as heck wouldn't like any of those things, and by running a DMPC I am by inserting a PC into the game who is in effect doing them all.
Objection: Statement assume facts not in evidence.



Edit: This of course assumes the DM is going for anything resembling the full experiance of being a PC rather than just having a guy who follows the party around and occasionally pops into existence for a moment like Blackwing.
No, it has a whole host of assumptions carried alongside it, not merely an active participant in the party. Though I will grant I've only seen it done by deliberately missing out on the 'full experience' - generally by taking a more passive role in shaping the plot. At least, with that character.

Exediron
2013-02-26, 05:06 PM
Would you mind if one of the players at your group was playing X-box at the same time as the RPG? And I don't mean casually playing while waiting for their turn, I mean being fully immersed in both and trying to divide their time and attention between the two games.

Yes. But it really shouldn't be the same at all. The DM is part of the same game, simply in two different ways. Like the dealer in a card game, or the bank in a board game. The hypothetical player with the Xbox is doing something totally unrelated.

Also, I certainly would mind if someone played on an Xbox while waiting for their turn. It's disrespectful of the other players and basically sends the message that you only care what your own character does. It makes everyone feel discouraged and like there's no point doing anything interesting because nobody's paying attention anyway.


Second, would you mind if a player pulled out your adventure notes / monster manuals / adventure module and thoroughly studies them while at the table, if they promised they were mature and could handle it and wouldn't meta game and didn't care about surprises anyway.

No. As long as I trust this player implicitly and they had a good reason to be doing so, I would not mind. A normal player doesn't, however. And you should be able to trust your DM.


Third, would you mind one player who always took twice as long taking their turns as everyone else, and insisted on having twice the spotlight time as any other PC out of combat? And who, if they don't get things their way (for example first pick of the loot) have the capability to hold the entire party hostage on a whim.

Yes, I would - but there's always one player like that anyway. And anyway, the DM isn't taking twice as long on their turn, they're just taking an extra turn. If the DM is already running 10 or 20 monsters in the fight, the extra initiative shouldn't be particularly noticeable.

How is a DMPC having twice the spotlight of a PC out of combat? How are they, by definition instead of according to the way they are played, having any additional spotlight at all?

Everyone has the ability to hold the entire party hostage, especially in a small group where DMPCs make the most sense. If any player has a problem with the way things are going or the loot distribution they can make a fuss and ruin everyone's time. It's not just DMs.


This of course assumes the DM is going for anything resembling the full experiance of being a PC rather than just having a guy who follows the party around and occasionally pops into existence for a moment like Blackwing. But if that is the case, I don't know why the DM is bothering with a DMPC in the first place when it would be simpler to just let the PCs run hirelings and henchmen.

I personally find the sort of cohort you describe extremely immersion breaking, and it bothers me greatly if a DM employs such. Just gos to show people have very different play styles.

The reason you would run a DMPC and not a hireling - and I don't mean to be offensive, but this seems to be something that people have trouble with - is because they're not the same thing. The DMPC really is a PC - just one who is played by the DM. They play a character in their own game. Otherwise, it's just an NPC and not a DMPC. Some groups don't like that and some DMs can't handle it, but that's what it is. I'm not in any way trying to say that DMPCs work for every group. But I am saying that there is no inherent problem which causes their existence - if properly done - to harm a group. I would say that the sort of NPC you advocate, with no real personality and who isn't even always there, hurts immersion and player enjoyment. Blackwing is a spoof of this sort of thing. It's no coincidence that as the story has become more serious he's become more permanent.

Talakeal
2013-02-26, 05:09 PM
Not sure how the analogy is "silly", but let me put it in more basic terms. The DM is playing two very different games at the same time and needs to balance their time and attention between them. True an X-box game is less "connected" to the RPG, but playing X box is also a hell of a lot less complex than DMing.

I don't know what Nethack is. But unless you are playing a game with no mystery, puzzle solving, or player (as opposed to character, ie "old school" gaming) decisions having an impact then that is a very strange game you are running, but I suppose the second issue wouldn't apply. I have never seen a game ran like that.

As for the third, if the DMPC is participating in the scene then the DM is by definition taking up roughly twice as much time as any of the players as they are taking turns for both the DMPC and any NPCs present (as well as narrating the environment and describing the results of player actions). And conflicts between PCs are inevitable. Good players don't let it spill over into ooc actions, but it happens to the best of us occasionally, and when one of the participants can simple declare "rocks fall everyone BUT ME dies!" then it is not a fair balance of power.

Talakeal
2013-02-26, 05:26 PM
I personally find the sort of cohort you describe extremely immersion breaking, and it bothers me greatly if a DM employs such. Just gos to show people have very different play styles.

The reason you would run a DMPC and not a hireling - and I don't mean to be offensive, but this seems to be something that people have trouble with - is because they're not the same thing. The DMPC really is a PC - just one who is played by the DM. They play a character in their own game. Otherwise, it's just an NPC and not a DMPC. Some groups don't like that and some DMs can't handle it, but that's what it is. I'm not in any way trying to say that DMPCs work for every group. But I am saying that there is no inherent problem which causes their existence - if properly done - to harm a group. I would say that the sort of NPC you advocate, with no real personality and who isn't even always there, hurts immersion and player enjoyment. Blackwing is a spoof of this sort of thing. It's no coincidence that as the story has become more serious he's become more permanent.

It depends on the nature of the NPC. If they are just a sidekick or hired help it doesn't really make for them to be doing the talking or thinking. Robin, Sancho Panza, and Dr Watson almost always leave these activities to the protagonist. If they are simply an enlisted soldier or hired muscle they are both not qualified to do such and would likely be insubordinate if they did.

On the other hand, a PC is not a sidekick and should not sit by passively for long periods of times. I would never enjoy playing a character who didn't participate in entire aspects of the game (be it talking, fighting, planning, or puzzle solving) and if I had such a player in one of my games I would be very annoyed by their lack of participation.

Even in a purely combat situation I still wouldn't want a DMPC on my side. I take combat as a very serious tactical challenge. To me it would be like playing chess and having my opponent ask if he could control not only all of his pieces but all of my pieces on the left side of the board. I can't think of anything good coming out of it, but a plethora of negative outcomes.

Also Forgive me if I don't defend my statement any further. This is a topic that tends to draw a lot of heated discussion, and even after only two posts in this thread I am starting to pick up on a lot hostility and think it best to withdraw before an actual argument starts.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-26, 05:29 PM
Not sure how the analogy is "silly", but let me put it in more basic terms. The DM is playing two very different games at the same time and needs to balance their time and attention between them. True an X-box game is less "connected" to the RPG, but playing X box is also a hell of a lot less complex than DMing.
No, the GM is playing one game, unless there's a party split that physically demands attention twice. More clearly, you're asserting that it's a seperate game, but that doesn't make it true or accurate. It's one game. One more character doesn't make it another game, or else the GM is running 3 to 8 games simultaneously already.


I don't know what Nethack is. But unless you are playing a game with no mystery, puzzle solving, or player (as opposed to character, ie "old school" gaming) decisions having an impact then that is a very strange game you are running,
No, I don't generally have a heap of surprises for the players. Plenty for the characters, but not that many for the players, and if asked I'd dish.


As for the third, if the DMPC is participating in the scene then the DM is by definition taking up roughly twice as much time as any of the players as they are taking turns for both the DMPC and any NPCs present
'by definition', this can only be true if there is only one NPC on the scene. In practical terms, it's even less true, even given the presence of only one NPC, since the GM's 'turn' includes all the narration of reactions to PCs. Unless the GM actually has as many PCs as there are enemies (An unusual situation to say the least - GMs, don't take the copy-self power on your PC in MnM, that actually isn't very wise!), it is absolutely untrue. Given their role of adjudicating the effects of player actions, it's almost certainly untrue even in this relatively rare set of circumstances.


(as well as narrating the environment and describing the results of player actions). And conflicts between PCs are inevitable. Good players don't let it spill over into ooc actions, but it happens to the best of us occasionally, and when one of the participants can simple declare "rocks fall everyone BUT ME dies!" then it is not a fair balance of power.
The GM can already say 'rocks fall everyone dies' for annoying them OOC. THis is a reason not to have a GM, not to prevent a GM's PC.


It depends on the nature of the NPC. If they are just a sidekick or hired help it doesn't really make for them to be doing the talking or thinking. Robin, Sancho Panza, and Dr Watson almost always leave these activities to the protagonist. If they are simply an enlisted soldier or hired muscle they are both not qualified to do such and would likely be insubordinate if they did.

Not your best examples... Sancho Panza thinks more than Don Quixote (Well, maybe not in Man of La Mancha), and Watson is the viewpoint character - he also handles a lot of intellectual work in the early holmes novels, since Holmes is behind on a lot of things that he can't just figure out with deductive reasoning (which should be 'pretty much anything', but suspension of disbelief)


Also Forgive me if I don't defend my statement any further. This is a topic that tends to draw a lot of heated discussion, and even after only two posts in this thread I am starting to pick up on a lot hostility and think it best to withdraw before an actual argument starts.
Feel free to not defend a statement because someone might disagree with it somewhere. Though one questions why you made it, considering you were well aware that people didn't agree and would say why, considering you phrased your primarily silly questions as 'to the advocates of DMPCs'.

Exediron
2013-02-26, 05:36 PM
Also Forgive me if I don't defend my statement any further. This is a topic that tends to draw a lot of heated discussion, and even after only two posts in this thread I am starting to pick up on a lot hostility and think it best to withdraw before an actual argument starts.

Fair is fair; I'm not trying to be hostile or start an argument, but if you feel that it's going in that direction you're well within your rights to withdraw. The discussion between us had probably run it's course anyway - both arguments aired and neither accepted by the other side.

Jay R
2013-02-26, 06:57 PM
This comment seems to me to be the crux of the issue. It's true. But why is it a problem?

On some level, yes - the DM is choosing not to use his or her knowledge while playing their character. But I don't understand why - to you - that makes them invalid.

That's a valid question. I'll do my best to answer it openly.

You believe that it is possible to just "choose not to use his or her knowledge" I don't. The player of the DMPC will never word a wish so that the DM will twist it. She will never attack the villain's illusion thinking it's the real villain. He won't accidentally say the wrong thing in front of the king.

The "player" might choose to do these things, or roll and have the choice be random, but that is fundamentally different from actually making the player mistake.

The DM player never makes mistakes due to lack of knowledge. He can choose do do what he knows is incorrect, but he never chooses it because he mistakenly thinks it's a good idea.


If you're playing a module you've already been through, you're doing the same. If you're playing some sort of past/future crossover where your character arrives at Los Alamos with no idea what anything there does, you're doing the same. If your character is a barbarian who doesn't understand physics and tries to make a bridge, you're doing the same. Any time your knowledge exceeds that of your character, you're doing exactly the same thing the DM is. The only difference is that the DM is doing it all the time.

Well, first of all, I never have played a module a second time. (I've rarely played a module at all.)

If you believe that any of the above situations is equivalent to creating and running the entire world, to knowing where every trap, every curse, and every hidden enemy in the world is, and the complete plan of every rival or villain, as the DM does, then we may not be able to communicate at all.


Unless the point of the game is purely puzzle solving, discovery and information gathering, I don't see why this is such an issue. Sure, the DM might not enjoy playing in his own campaign as much as the other players do, but provided he does his job properly that won't cause them an issue. It's just an added responsibility for the DM, and should be invisible to the outside. If you doubt that a DM can manage to keep his characters from using his knowledge, my experience says you're wrong.

The point of the game isn't "purely puzzle solving, discovery and information gathering". But every aspect of the game can include puzzle solving, discovery and information gathering - including and especially when you don't know it does. When you pick up several magic items not knowing one of them is cursed, when you attack four enemies not knowing there's a fifth one hiding in the shadows, when you're exploring a room not knowing there's a secret door, etc. In every phase of the game, things you didn't expect can happen.

I don't wrap up a present for myself on my birthday, and for the same reason, I don't run a D&D game for myself to play in.

The DM's primary responsibility is to be completely fair to all. A player's job is to work for his own character's goals. These jobs are often incompatible. The only way for the DM to play a PC fairly is to roll randomly for the PC's actions whenever it would matter.

But I'm not arguing that it's inherently bad. I have twice said, "Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing. But not a PC." That's what I'm arguing.

I happen to think it will be almost always a bad thing. But that's not from inference; it's from observation.

I have observed two DMPCs. Once, the DM made several decisions as player that other players wouldn't have been able to make. For example, that player knew exactly how to word a Wish so that the DM would interpret it in his favor. I'm not accusing him of dishonesty or any form of cheating; I think he played in good faith, and DMed in good faith, and the player's idea of the situation always matched the DM's.

The other time I think the DM was scrupulously fair. Certainly he bent over backwards trying to be. And twice I knew that there was a hidden danger simply because he had somebody else make a decision for his DMPC. (Once he refused to express an opinion over the division of magic items. I instantly knew that one of them was cursed, and it was one his PC could use. That narrowed it to two out of six. I wasn't trying to read his actions; it was just obvious.)

Maybe somebody exists who can be at the same time both neutral and ego-free enough to DM a game well and goal-focused and egocentric enough to play a PC well. I haven't seen it, and I have seen problems from people trying.

But my biggest concern is this. In any game above the level of a sequence of simple melees, being a DM is a full-time job. Both DMs I saw playing DMPCs were slower than they are when they don't have one.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-27, 04:34 AM
You believe that it is possible to just "choose not to use his or her knowledge" I don't.
'Believe' nothing. It's already been done. That you choose not to accept it changes little


The "player" might choose to do these things, or roll and have the choice be random, but that is fundamentally different from actually making the player mistake.
And why should I, or anyone else, necessarily care? It matters a lot to a tactical wargame or a nethack-like dungeon crawl, I'll certainly grant, but not so much to everyone.


Well, first of all, I never have played a module a second time. (I've rarely played a module at all.)
Good for you, but there's a wide world out there that has and does, and your argument ostensibly applies to them for hte same reason.


If you believe that any of the above situations is equivalent to creating and running the entire world, to knowing where every trap, every curse, and every hidden enemy in the world is, and the complete plan of every rival or villain, as the DM does, then we may not be able to communicate at all.
...It's a preprinted module. You won't have grasped every little thing, but you'll get almost all of it. And uh, not to belabor the point, but a GM who has to actually react to players won't have everything planned out either.



The point of the game isn't "purely puzzle solving, discovery and information gathering". But every aspect of the game can include puzzle solving, discovery and information gathering - including and especially when you don't know it does. When you pick up several magic items not knowing one of them is cursed, when you attack four enemies not knowing there's a fifth one hiding in the shadows, when you're exploring a room not knowing there's a secret door, etc. In every phase of the game, things you didn't expect can happen.

And if part of the game is a nethack like experience of dungeon crawling, it really can matter to the party that one player isn't operating under the same rules, but not everyone cares or wants that style of game at all.


I have observed two DMPCs.
A wealth of statistical knowledge, to be sure. All observations and objections, as expected, fall along the lines of a nethack-like dungeon crawl. We're not all playing the same game, dude. Both literally, and figuratively.


The DM's primary responsibility is to be completely fair to all. A player's job is to work for his own character's goals. These jobs are often incompatible. The only way for the DM to play a PC fairly is to roll randomly for the PC's actions whenever it would matter.

YEah, see, none of this applies with my friends or most of my acquaintances. With us, the player's most frequent goal is to figure out an interesting story for their characters that preferably follows along the lines of the GM's narrative and is at least not exclusive to the other PCs. So no, actually, none of this is true or accurate to everyone. There are, most definitely, groups that a DM has no business considering a PC for, without a doubt, however.

Exediron
2013-02-27, 04:38 AM
The DM player never makes mistakes due to lack of knowledge. He can choose do do what he knows is incorrect, but he never chooses it because he mistakenly thinks it's a good idea.

I'll grant you this, and I'll accept that on a purely theoretical level that does make the DM's characters unique. But what I don't see is how it actually makes any difference. How is it different to the other players if the DM's character opens a door and the DM knew it was trapped from if the character opens the door and the DM didn't know it was trapped? The result is exactly the same, unless the very fact that he (the DM, not the character) knew it was going to happen is so off-putting. And I do not see any logic in that.


If you believe that any of the above situations is equivalent to creating and running the entire world, to knowing where every trap, every curse, and every hidden enemy in the world is, and the complete plan of every rival or villain, as the DM does, then we may not be able to communicate at all.

I'm going to pass over what I perceive as an unnecessarily snide tone here and say that yes, obviously the two are different - in magnitude and scope. But it really is exactly the same thing on a case-by-case basis, it's just that the DM always has this knowledge advantage whereas a player only has it on a situational basis. It can be dealt with in exactly the same way.


The DM's primary responsibility is to be completely fair to all. A player's job is to work for his own character's goals. These jobs are often incompatible. The only way for the DM to play a PC fairly is to roll randomly for the PC's actions whenever it would matter.

I do not agree. This seems to me to express an overly competitive form of D&D that I prefer to avoid. I think that my responsibility as a player is to play my character to the best of my ability and enjoy myself without hurting the enjoyment of my fellow players. If that makes me 'old school', then I have no problem with that.


But I'm not arguing that it's inherently bad. I have twice said, "Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing. But not a PC." That's what I'm arguing.

And I'm arguing that it really is, with only insignificant differences.


But my biggest concern is this. In any game above the level of a sequence of simple melees, being a DM is a full-time job. Both DMs I saw playing DMPCs were slower than they are when they don't have one.

I can't argue with this - it's inevitable that doing another job will slow the DM down. Now personally, I think an experienced DM is capable of operating efficiently enough that there is going to be wasted overhead if they're not playing any PCs, and if you're in a party interaction heavy game then there will be long stretches where the DM is actually not needed at all. It takes only a tiny fraction of focus to handle the small tasks associated with a group of characters sitting around in a tavern planning their next quest or going out on the town for relaxation. Sure, you have some NPCs, and you describe stuff, but since nobody will be talking while you lay down a description anyway, it won't conflict with your dual role as a player.

It seems that one of your main objections comes down to a disbelief that a person can, in fact, actively not use knowledge they possess in playing their character. As the ability to do so is vital to my theory of roleplaying, I do concede that if you deny this we don't have much common ground to found a discussion on.

I believe that the ideal state of roleplaying is one in which all decisions are reached through examination from the eyes of the character, using the motivations and knowledge of that character. If you're already doing this, I really don't see it as so much of a stretch to just not use a little bit more knowledge. I have played literally hundreds of characters in my own long running game, and nearly all of them (including no small number I really liked) have died in some way I could have prevented using my position as the DM. Clearly I didn't do this.

There are definite flaws with playing characters in your own campaign. I admit this. But I hold to my belief that it is perfectly doable without either compromising your integrity, stealing the spotlight from the other players or over-compensating and making your own characters idiots. If done properly, it ought to be no different in any measurable way from you being a player in the game in addition to DM. No, it doesn't work with every group and every style of play, and I never claimed it did.

I have seen or know people who have seen DMPCs done quite badly, in several different ways. One DM always built his campaigns around his characters, making them the center of the story and the other PCs merely glorified tag-a-longs. Another never bothered to play the character at all, and she just stood there during interactions and combat like a zombie until someone moved her. When I was a novice DM I even did them wrong myself, using my position as DM to insert unbalancingly powerful but sympathetic NPCs I knew the party would like and recruit into my campaigns, to seed my ranks with powerful and likeable characters.

But I've also seen them done right, and done right I feel that they add to the enjoyment of the players and the DM by giving more people for the players to travel with an interact with, bond with, etc. and by giving the DM the ability to have characters of a more permanent nature in the world. In a long running game - 10 years, maybe more - the DM can start to feel awfully deprived with no characters. And if you're careful, a DMPC can be a subtler and less railroad-y way of nudging the party in the right direction if they're about to do something monumentally stupid.

PS: I also don't play modules as a rule. I included it as an example because many people do. Recently however, my sister ran a Tomb of Horrors game for my alternative group; several of us were familiar with the module to one degree or another, and I'd even studied it carefully because I was originally on tap to run.

Spoiler'd - some specific Tomb features mentioned:
That didn't stop the thief (not mine) from sticking his hand in the statue's mouth to feel around for a supposed hidden lever or the party cleric (mine) from deciding the gargoyle was just smashing gems and they should stop feeding them in, or not slipping the ring in the obtuse slot to open the secret door, or when they smashed the first row of pews by accident and released the poison gas deciding not to smash the second as well and thus missing the treasure.
In the end the party turned back one room away from the final tomb because they decided the going was too rough and they weren't going to make it to the end - but we knew they were one room away. That's because it's thinking as the character, not thinking as the player.

--=-=--

Tomorrow I'll see if I can't come up with some new arguments to breathe life into the discussion, but I have to get some sleep now.

EDIT: I missed this on my first read, and I think it's significant enough that it deserves an addition.


...I think he played in good faith, and DMed in good faith, and the player's idea of the situation always matched the DM's.

This is actually quite true, and is in my opinion the best argument you've raised. The DM-as-a-Player's perceptions will always match the way the situation really is, and that is something you simply can't overcome. I've had situations where I describe a room carefully and (I think) completely, but one of my players actually misunderstood what I meant and makes an invalid choice on that basis - in one situation this actually led to me losing a favorite character, because she was somewhere my player didn't think was threatened by her character's action. I would never have made that mistake in my own game, and I wouldn't have made it happen on purpose, either. So it is a real, tangible advantage for a DM character.

Killer Angel
2013-02-27, 04:48 AM
You believe that it is possible to just "choose not to use his or her knowledge" I don't.



'Believe' nothing. It's already been done. That you choose not to accept it changes little

A DMPC cannot "solve a puzzle" when the DM knows the solution.
A DMPC cannot search for a secret door when the DM knows its location.
If the group ignore a vital clue, what the DMPC will do?

I can continue...
Of course, the DM can simply tell "my DMPC won't partecipate in those kind of things, leaving to the players the decisions".
But IMO that's no more a DMPC, it's a NPC, that interacts with the PCs only when needed.

Gnomish Wanderer
2013-02-27, 04:49 AM
In one of my first campaigns, I ran what could be argued as a DMPC or Deus Ex Machina in waiting, but I always felt I handled it right for being a nooblet DM. Basically I had a high level wizard aboard the parties' ship to bail them out if I accidentally made the challenges impossibly too hard.

The character, being mentally unhinged, would often come up with extremely weird ways of solving challenges the party couldn't on their own, but would usually leave the party with new (albeit lesser) challenges to face as a result of her actions, and then be generally useless a great portion of the rest of the time but not really a hindrance.

The party loved her, even abandoned their main quest to save her once I had her kidnapped. I still always felt like she was sorta a cop out to my faults, but I've never really regretted adding her into the game.

I suppose, since the interaction wasn't permanent per the discussions in this thread, it could also be argued that she was just an NPC close at hand, which would mean I've never ran a DMPC. ^.^

RPGuru1331
2013-02-27, 04:54 AM
A DMPC cannot "solve a puzzle" when the DM knows the solution.
A DMPC cannot search for a secret door when the DM knows its location.
If the group ignore a vital clue, what the DMPC will do?
Same thing they were going to do, in the similar situations where I know this occurred. With the GM interested at what was going to happen. 'cause it's not always a dungeon crawl (Needless to say, it wasn't so much 'solving a puzzle' or 'finding a secret door', but I'm looking to somewhat similar situations)


I can continue...
Feel free, but it will change little.


Of course, the DM can simply tell "my DMPC won't partecipate in those kind of things, leaving to the players the decisions".
But IMO that's no more a DMPC, it's a NPC, that interacts with the PCs only when needed.

Only if a PC, definitionally, must always do the optimal thing as their players see it - but that isn't true either, so I don't see why it matters for a GM's PC. What you're really saying is "I'm going to define non-problematic GM's PCs as NPCs to avoid the issue at hand."


I suppose, since the interaction wasn't permanent per the discussions in this thread, it could also be argued that she was just an NPC close at hand, which would mean I've never ran a DMPC. ^.^

I'd argue that she was an NPC because the reason behind her creation was purely to bail what you defined as 'the players' out. Nothing to do with frequency or permancy as such, though.

Exediron
2013-02-27, 04:58 AM
Alright, this one is really gonna have to be my last post tonight - it's 5 in the morning here :smallsigh:


A DMPC cannot "solve a puzzle" when the DM knows the solution.
A DMPC cannot search for a secret door when the DM knows its location.
If the group ignore a vital clue, what the DMPC will do?


True.
False. They sure as heck can, and use the same criteria you would have used to determine where to search if you were a player. You must have some, unless you decided where to search at random, and if you did that it's even easier to do it the same way!
If there's no valid reason for the DMPC to spot the clue, they don't. This is a good time for the DM to think on the fly. I don't really think any well put-together campaign can be destroyed by a single missed clue; if it's so danged important you can work it in again later in different circumstances. However, as long as it makes sense for the DMPC to spot the clue, why not? Everyone else had their chance. It's not like there's any spotlight stealing going on anymore.



I can continue...
Of course, the DM can simply tell "my DMPC won't partecipate in those kind of things, leaving to the players the decisions".
But IMO that's no more a DMPC, it's a NPC, that interacts with the PCs only when needed.

And so could I.

You're right - that would be an NPC. But you don't need to do it that way at all, except for the situations of puzzles and one-on-one interactions, both of which I freely admit should be avoided with a DMPC. In a puzzle you can at least have your character come up with some helpful suggestions which set the other characters on the right path.

EDIT: Yes, I agree that the mage in the above example is an NPC - an NPC who happens to travel with the party, yes, but her purpose in being with the party is clearly plot based. She is an extension of the plot, and as such is an NPC.

RGoldest
2013-02-27, 05:33 AM
http://imgfeedget.com/32397/imgforum/gambling/1_new_them_pocker.png (http://imgfeedget.com/32397/link/gambling/1_new_them_pocker.html)

http://imgfeedget.com/32397/imgforum/gambling/2_new_them_pocker.png (http://imgfeedget.com/32397/link/gambling/2_new_them_pocker.html)

http://imgfeedget.com/32397/imgforum/gambling/3_new_them_pocker.png (http://imgfeedget.com/32397/link/gambling/3_new_them_pocker.html)

Killer Angel
2013-02-27, 05:44 AM
What you're really saying is "I'm going to define non-problematic GM's PCs as NPCs to avoid the issue at hand."

Nope.
A PC played by the DM is a PC, so she partecipates in all the decisions, exactly as a normal PC. If the DM don't play the PC during problematic moments (puzzle solving, wish wording, and so on), we'll have a NPC, because doesn't act as a PC would.

I could argue that you are defining NPC as DMPC to support your PoV. :smalltongue:



False. They sure as heck can, and use the same criteria you would have used to determine where to search if you were a player.


But I, as DM, know were the secret door is. Do I search where I know it's right, or do I search where I know it's the wrong place, to avoid "stealing the spotlight?".
Either way, my choice is biased.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-27, 05:53 AM
Nope.
A PC played by the DM is a PC, so she partecipates in all the decisions, exactly as a normal PC. If the DM don't play the PC during problematic moments (puzzle solving, wish wording, and so on), we'll have a NPC, because doesn't act as a PC would.
I have a PC who by nature and plot, has only rarely participated in the decision-making process, because she doesn't care. Is she a secret NPC, as you propose? Notice that I haven't stated whether I'm the GM or not. Notice also that your definition of problematic moments presupposes DnD Dungeon Crawling.


I could argue that you are defining NPC as DMPC to support your PoV. :smalltongue:
You could. The difference is that I'm not defining away things that weaken my argument by existing - for instance, I have no problem granting the archetypal horror story (Such as the OP) is a GM's PC. If a GM means to behave more or less like a player with a PC, it's a GM's PC. Yes, as you're the GM, that means some limitations are basically mandatory to keep things fun for everyone, not just you, but limitations are basically always mandatory on players, so that doesn't change anything - yours are just somewhat more direct.


But I, as DM, know were the secret door is. Do I search where I know it's right, or do I search where I know it's the wrong place, to avoid "stealing the spotlight?".
Either way, my choice is biased.

It would be biased if you weren't the dedicated trapfinder to begin with, and have the capability to usurp their job, and chose not to. The casters in DnD not using their resources to outmode the rogue is also to avoid stealing the spotlight, and it's no less a deliberate weakening. You opt not to do so for any of a dozen reasons - it's not interesting to you, or it isn't fun, or it treads on toes... Players make these decisions all the time. Whether or not you're the GM has nothing to do with it.

Killer Angel
2013-02-27, 06:08 AM
You could. The difference is that I'm not defining away things that weaken my argument by existing

Me neither. I know that Saph (hope I remember correctly) played a DMPC for a long time, and wasn't detrimental at all to the game.
But when we discuss this kind of things, all we have are our convinctions on the matter, and anedoctical evidences (from both sides, when we debate).
The anecdotes, tell us that usually, a DMPC is not a good thing, and only in rare cases it can add something to the game.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-27, 06:14 AM
Yo, skippy, I asked you a direct question. To wit -


I have a PC who by nature and plot, has only rarely participated in the decision-making process, because she doesn't care. Is she a secret NPC, as you propose? Notice that I haven't stated whether I'm the GM or not. Notice also that your definition of problematic moments presupposes DnD Dungeon Crawling.



Me neither. I know that Saph (hope I remember correctly) played a DMPC for a long time, and wasn't detrimental at all to the game.

If I recall that anecdote correctly, Saph limited him or herself in the exact manner you claim disqualifies someone for PC-dom for a very long time. Or perhaps I'm mixing it up with Serpentine. Either way, they did the very thing you claimed made someone not a PC, for reasons you haven't yet explained, given the dozens, that is to say scores, and possibly hundreds, of unspoken limitations you operate under just for playing a communal game.



The anecdotes, tell us that usually, a DMPC is not a good thing, and only in rare case it can add something to the game.
90% of everything is crap, and most people do any given thing poorly. If that's your reasoning to not do a GM's PC, you shouldn't be doing a game at all.

Killer Angel
2013-02-27, 06:40 AM
Yo, skippy, I asked you a direct question. To wit .
:smallannoyed: it wasn't my intention, sorry...

I have a PC who by nature and plot, has only rarely participated in the decision-making process, because she doesn't care. Is she a secret NPC, as you propose? Notice that I haven't stated whether I'm the GM or not. Notice also that your definition of problematic moments presupposes DnD Dungeon Crawling.

You are the player, you decide if you want to partecipate or not.
A DM can effectively play a DMPC that "only rarely participates in the decision-making process, because she doesn't care". That's the only reasonable thing you can do (as GM), otherwise, it would break the immersion. But it has limits.
I can expect from a PC barbarian "screw it, call me when there's something to kill" when we look for secret doors, but I still expect from the PC barbarian, some effort in the decision-making process, otherwise the question would be: why you're even playing?
(BTW, I'm not limiting myself to dungeon crawling. Imo, it would be problematic also in an investigative adventure.)




If I recall that anecdote correctly, Saph limited him or herself for a very long time. Or perhaps I'm mixing it up with Serpentine.

Eh, i don't remember it for sure, but now that you tell it, probably was Serp.



If that's your reasoning to not do a GM's PC, you shouldn't be doing a game at all.

If your reasoning is "I don't partecipate with my PC, so a DMPC can do the same", I could reverse the question to you.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-27, 06:55 AM
You are the player, you decide if you want to partecipate or not.
How does that change whether or not I'm the GM?



A DM can effectively play a DMPC that "only rarely participates in the decision-making process, because she doesn't care". That's the only reasonable thing you can do (as GM), otherwise, it would break the immersion. But it has limits.
I can expect from a PC barbarian "screw it, call me when there's something to kill" when we look for secret doors, but I still expect from the PC barbarian, some effort in the decision-making process, otherwise the question would be: why you're even playing?
Were you going to name a limit? All you've done is question the utility, and the answers to that question are manifold and ultimately personal. One person might just want in on a particular RPG that's not really played commonly, another may just have a non-intrusive character idea they want to see done and don't want to wait.


(BTW, I'm not limiting myself to dungeon crawling. Imo, it would be problematic also in an investigative adventure.)
You're still tying yourself to the prospect of the players, specifically, solving a problem and using their in-game avatars as tools to solve that problem. Which is still not the structure everyone uses.


Eh, i don't remember it for sure, but now that you tell it, probably was Serp.
The question stands - why does that self-limited PC count as a PC, exactly?



If your reasoning is "I don't partecipate with my PC, so a DMPC can do the same", I could reverse the question to you.
For the same reason I might not participate so that any other player would see what they want done, I imagine. Why would that change merely because that other player is the GM? I'll be the first to admit it's probably not ideal to place another player on that spot as the GM, but it isn't inherently different until and unless the GM is actually abusing the power differentials.

Also, that isn't why my PC doesn't participate in decision-making. But you know, if it were, that'd be why.

Killer Angel
2013-02-27, 07:23 AM
This will probably be my last post. Job's calling.


All you've done is question the utility, and the answers to that question are manifold and ultimately personal.

You're still tying yourself to the prospect of the players, specifically, solving a problem and using their in-game avatars as tools to solve that problem. Which is still not the structure everyone uses.


Yes, of course it's personal.
For a DMPC to work, you need certain qualities from the DM, certain attitudes from the players, and other things (how the game is structured).
Can it work? sure, I'm not denying it, but it's not common.


The question stands - why does that self-limited PC count as a PC, exactly?


are we talkin 'bout Serp's?
That worked because it was a PC with a developed personality, that avoided some kind of decisional processes due to role-playing reasons, not because in that moment it would have been "inconvenient".

Jon_Dahl
2013-02-27, 07:54 AM
I don't like DMPCs at all. They create confusion: There is a character whose "player" has all the information and is able to always make the right choice. It doesn't work that well, really.

Mostly, I dislike them because my ex-gamemaster always had unfair DMPCs/GMPCs with us. It was boring, but served as fine warning.

Serpentine
2013-02-27, 08:18 AM
I'm an example! :smallbiggrin:
...not sure if good :smalleek:

Anyway, I'm lazy, so here's the entirety of my argument from last time, including more details on my DMPC (edited and formatted a bit):


---------------------------------------------------------
DMPCs are not always bad.

Definitions:
- DMPC, lit "Dungeon Master Player Character". A character in a roleplaying game that:
1. is controlled by the DM or GM, as their personal character.
2. is built as though it was a Player Character
3. is considered a party member
Note: a DMPC does not necessarily remain so through its entire career. Depending on in- and out-of-game circumstances, a DMPC may become a PC or an NPC, and vice-versa.

- Bad. With overall negative impact on the game and gameplay. More detrimental than beneficial.

Qualifiers: DMPCs are risky. They require, among other things: a certain mindset that allows the easy distinction between DM knowledge and character knowledge; an ability to be brutally fair under all circumstances; remembering that the DMPC is of a lower priority to the other characters; good organisational skills; and a good understanding of the desires and preferences of one's players.
When done right, they can have a positive impact on a game. However, getting it right depends on a lot of different circumstances, within and without the DM's control, and it's hard. In most cases, the DM and the party is probably better off without. But if a DMPC is wanted, it is possible for it to work, so long as the DM is careful and self-aware.

Case studies:
1. The first DMPC I ever played with was of the bad variety. It was much more powerful than any other party member, it had a strange template, it was obscenely beautiful, and it was allowed things that, as far as I know, the rest of us were not. The DM at the time was inexperienced, overeager, and obsessed with sex and sex jokes. The players at the time were also inexperienced, and knew no better. The game was poor for a variety of reasons and, if I recall correctly, died soon after the introduction of that DMPC.

2. My own past DMPC. Mechanically, she was slightly less optimised than the rest of my low-optimisation party. She is an axe-and-shield dwarf Knight, with a Legacy Item meant to assist mounted combat as much as shield-bashing, and no horse - it drowned when we arrived in a land with few mount options. If I were to play her as a player, not as a DM - which I would be willing and able to do - I might be slightly more restrained and strict in the use of her Craft check (which is used as much for the benefit of the rest of the party as for herself), and slightly more discerning in the selection of her items. I would also go out of my way to find her a horse - as DM, it's easier just to do without.
Fluff-wise, she has a fairly simple and bland but well-fleshed-out personality. She is the sort of character who prefers to stick in the background a bit, helping those around her to succeed rather than doing anything spectacular herself. She believes strongly in her duty to protect and serve others, and may have a slight martyr complex. She has several potential plot-hooks in her background, but none that have high priority.
In terms of party role, it is her job to get hit so that others don't. We were a fairly caster-heavy party, and some of my players expressed an appreciation of this position. If it comes up, she will advise the party and give her opinion, but it is clear that any opinions given through her are purely her own, and generally do not reflect mine as DM. In at least one case, she gave advice directly contrary to my desires as DM, because it's what she would have said. She does occasionally act as a poking-stick when the group starts to flounder, but almost never in any specific direction except maybe as a reminder.
She has died twice, once by my stupidity as DM (failed to compare the size of a drowned's aura with the boat) and as a player of a character (failed to give her a ranged weapon), once heroically playing her designated party role, not including the following. The heroic death was one of my favourite in-game events, and was gloriously gruesome. Only one other character has died more times, at thrice.
A while ago, I decided to remove my DMPC from my game at the next available opportunity. My reasons for this were as follows:
- The understanding that the main reason I included her in the first place was because I was just used to having a DMPC as standard practice.
- The entry of new players into the group, making it significantly larger.
- The similarity of her role with one of the new characters - a LG religious shield-basher - and concerns over competition with him.
- Concerns over the greater number of attacks she gets each round compared with other characters, rolling against myself and similar issues.
- Concern over other issues brought up in these sorts of discussions, that even if I don't think they're relevant to my games they are and I just didn't realise it.
- My players, when asked about their opinion of DMPCs in general, being mostly neutral, with one player being somewhat negative, preferring to not have them than to have them. This was soon after the latter player joined my group.

I gave her an in-character reason to not get resurrected if she died - she told the other long-running character that if she died she wants them to save their money, and just see that her shield and armour reach her family - and had her killed in a way that made sense in-world - killed in her sleep by a well-resourced burglar. The party immediately resurrected her with an item in their possession. I openly told them that this was my way of removing her from the game, but I gave them a choice: I could say that her soul was "unwilling", so she can't be brought back and she'd be removed from play; or they could be successful, and she would continue with the group. They unanimously decided that they wanted her in the game. The player that previously expressed a negative opinion of DMPCs was the one whose character did the resurrecting, and was one of the more vocal in his desire to see her stay in play. The reasons given were these:
- They liked her, as a character.
- They liked having her as a shield from enemies.
- She was one of only two characters that had been there from the start, and so was an important link for that other character.
- They liked what conflict she brings into the game (which has only one other Lawful character, and several Chaotic and/or non-Good).
- They looked forward to the banter and competition between her and the mechanically similar PC.

These, by my players' own judgement, outweighed all the negative aspects I listed before. Thus, according to my players - the ones whose opinions matter - my DMPC is not bad.
I also, thereby, believe that I am somewhat qualified - or at least justified - to give people advice on how to run DMPCs well, or how to not make them bad, should they seek such advice.

That game ended, what with me going overseas and then interstate, but I would feel confident in my ability to bring her back as a DMPC or as a PC if I and my players wanted to, or to run a different one.


---------------------------------------------------------

In addition, because "the jobs of DMs and players" came up, here's what I said last time on that, and still believe to be true, at least for my games:
The DM's job is to craft a world and events with which the players can engage. The players' job is to engage with the world and, with the DM, create a story. The job of both is to make a fun game.

If anyone wants to ask specific questions about my DMPC and how I ran her - up to and including her character sheet - you're welcome to do so.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-27, 10:50 AM
I'm an example!
...not sure if good
For better or worse, you're the most forthcoming about the situation you were in, or are among the most forthcoming.


Can it work? sure, I'm not denying it, but it's not common.

Sure, but neither is a good game.


That worked because it was a PC with a developed personality, that avoided some kind of decisional processes due to role-playing reasons, not because in that moment it would have been "inconvenient".
So you're going to define it based on skill in execution, as appraised by you? That seems silly. Because that's all your objection ultimately is - did it make sense to the character and story? IF so, it's a DMPC, and if not, it's an NPC, so sayeth you. That doesn't really work for a definition at all, and everyone thinks they have a good justification so it isn't really useful otherwise either.

Tengu_temp
2013-02-27, 11:07 AM
- They liked her, as a character.


I think this is the most important part. As long as the players like the DMPC, it doesn't matter how many rules you break - the character can be more powerful than the players, bail them out of hard situations, cause hard situations, steal the spotlight, as long as the players love the DMPC, it doesn't matter. In comparison, a DMPC the players don't like will be met with negativity even if it just sticks to the background, never takes spotlight, never causes trouble and plays pure support in combat.

Of course, now there's a problem of making a likeable NPC. And there's no good guide for that, because different people like different things and two players can have completely opposite reactions to the same character. The only advice I can give is "be a good writer" and "know your players".

Synovia
2013-02-27, 11:17 AM
Of course, now there's a problem of making a likeable NPC. And there's no good guide for that, because different people like different things and two players can have completely opposite reactions to the same character. The only advice I can give is "be a good writer" and "know your players".

Thats not really a problem, because if an NPC is disliked, the players either kill him, or stop associating with him.

If a DMPC is not liked, its usually just too damned bad. Which is the whole problem with DMPCs, you've taken a choice away from the players.

Darius Kane
2013-02-27, 11:41 AM
If a DMPC is not liked, its usually just too damned bad. Which is the whole problem with DMPCs, you've taken a choice away from the players.
And why is that?

Synovia
2013-02-27, 11:48 AM
And why is that?

Because in most D&D games, the players aren't going to openly attack something that the GM is personally attached to. Because as much as they like to think they are, most GM's aren't above retaliating.

Serpentine
2013-02-27, 12:13 PM
*shrug* My players had plenty of choice about it, starting with the option to tell me if they didn't like her, and ending with the decision to go out of their way to keep her.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-27, 12:17 PM
Thats not really a problem, because if an NPC is disliked, the players either kill him, or stop associating with him.

If a DMPC is not liked, its usually just too damned bad. Which is the whole problem with DMPCs, you've taken a choice away from the players.

You're making a boatload of assumptions again. The first being that NPCs are generally murderable, the second being the GM's PC isn't. That doesn't really work very well for your argument. The choice you have iwth an annoying NPC is to stop interacting with them. The choice you have with an annoying GM's PC is the same you have with any other PC - discuss the issue like adults.

Darius Kane
2013-02-27, 12:25 PM
Because in most D&D games, the players aren't going to openly attack something that the GM is personally attached to.
Well, firstly, it's hard for a DM to get attached to one character when he has a whole world to run, so I don't think that even comes into the equation.
Secondly, a DM can get attached to any character, DMPC or not. Why should that matter to the players, I don't know, considering that I've seen or read about countless examples where players didn't care one way or the other.
Thirdly, PvP is a thing. Players aren't above killing other PCs. But unlike when a DMPC is killed, a killed PC more often than not means that that player is out of the game, at least for that session. The DM can (or rather has to) still play.
Fourthly, why exactly is attacking the DMPC the first option? That's some very passive-aggressive players you've got in the example. And immature at that. Like it's somehow impossible to talk about it, OOCly and ICly.


Because as much as they like to think they are, most GM's aren't above retaliating.
A DM can retaliate over anything. I don't play with DMs who get butthurt over nothing.

The Fury
2013-02-27, 12:59 PM
As someone who is guilty of using DMPCs when I am DM, I do have rules which I hold myself to. As many of you pointed out, it's no good when challenges are introduced and the DMPC solves it without giving the players a chance to think of their own solution. I think of the player characters as being the de-facto heroes of the campaigns story, any DMPC I make are NPCs in a supporting role.
Basically, I don't allow any DMPC I make to steal the spotlight. My DMPC might notice a detail that the players missed, (not always a crucial one,) but it's always the players that come up with the solution. I'll make "rule of cool" type allowances for my players but not DMPCs. Though sometimes if a Knowledge skill that none of the players have keeps coming up maybe I'll go so far a the DMPC "just happens" to have one rank in it.


You're making a boatload of assumptions again. The first being that NPCs are generally murderable, the second being the GM's PC isn't. That doesn't really work very well for your argument. The choice you have iwth an annoying NPC is to stop interacting with them. The choice you have with an annoying GM's PC is the same you have with any other PC - discuss the issue like adults.

I'll grant you that assumptions are being made here, though perhaps not completely baseless. The biggest one is that the DM might cheat, and let's be honest some of them do. If we assume the best about the DM, killing most NPCs and even the DMPC can probably be done. That said, killing them is probably not a good plan "A," even if your group are murder hobos.

A Tad Insane
2013-02-27, 01:27 PM
I rarely use them, and even then they serve as plot points that I stop using after they serve their purpose. As such, I only give them rolls on things that they can mess up on and let the story continue. But they are almost never more powerful than the pc, and only if they are Obi-wan

Synovia
2013-02-27, 02:46 PM
You're making a boatload of assumptions again. The first being that NPCs are generally murderable, the second being the GM's PC isn't. That doesn't really work very well for your argument. The choice you have iwth an annoying NPC is to stop interacting with them. The choice you have with an annoying GM's PC is the same you have with any other PC - discuss the issue like adults.


No, it absolutely is not. The GM has a fundamentally different role than the players.


Though sometimes if a Knowledge skill that none of the players have keeps coming up maybe I'll go so far a the DMPC "just happens" to have one rank in it.

And you've taken agency away from the players, and nudged them back onto the road you want them traveling.

Darius Kane
2013-02-27, 02:55 PM
No, it absolutely is not. The GM has a fundamentally different role than the players.
A DM is a player too, so you're wrong. And nothing forbids him from having more than one role. Heck, that's kinda part of the job description.


And you've taken agency away from the players, and nudged them back onto the road you want them traveling.
False. He just gave them more options. The players aren't forced to use the information and they can use it however they like.

Synovia
2013-02-27, 03:33 PM
False. He just gave them more options. The players aren't forced to use the information and they can use it however they like.

No, they aren't forced to use it, but by having the DMPC pipe in, he's indicated that its preferred that they do.

Killer Angel
2013-02-27, 03:36 PM
That doesn't really work for a definition at all,

It doesn't work 'cause it was not a definition, I was trying to explain my PoV, answering to one of your specific question, regarding a particular circumstance.

(BTW, every time someone tries to apply a definition to what is a DMPC, there's always someone else that objects about it).

Anyway, the reason why a DMPC is different from a PC, and will always be different, has already been said:


The DM player never makes mistakes due to lack of knowledge. He can choose do do what he knows is incorrect, but he never chooses it because he mistakenly thinks it's a good idea.

Darius Kane
2013-02-27, 03:42 PM
No, they aren't forced to use it, but by having the DMPC pipe in, he's indicated that its preferred that they do.
That's an assumption on your part. Me personally, I would say no, it is not.


Anyway, the reason why a DMPC is different from a PC, and will always be different, has already been said:
Yeah, because players are incapable of knowing more then they should but not using that knowledge. /sarcasm

Killer Angel
2013-02-27, 04:05 PM
Yeah, because players are incapable of knowing more then they should but not using that knowledge. /sarcasm

oooh, ooh, can I use sarcasm too? :smalltongue:

...because remembering some details about a monster (hoping that you're not facing a different version), is totally the same thing that knowing that the evil mind behind the recent assassinations is the captain of the guards, even before starting the investigation.

Do you let your players read the module you're going to run?

BRC
2013-02-27, 04:16 PM
Yeah, because players are incapable of knowing more then they should but not using that knowledge. /sarcasm
There is a difference between not metagaming and what a DM running a DMPC must do.

A Player might know a monster's weakness, and is forced to sit on that knowledge until somebody makes the appropriate knowledge check. Even then, they could, say, throw a fireball, notice it was especially effective, and say "Hey, let's use FIRE" (Not that they would need to, PC's will always default to using Fire, but you get my point.)
A DMPC knows exactly what is up ahead, and must sit on that knowledge. They know that the Duke's Wife was kidnapped and replaced with an imposter who is mind controlling the Duke. They know that mysterious bandit leader is a Werewolf, and therefore it would be a good idea to buy some silver weapons.

Lets take that bandit leader.

The local merchant describes the gang of bandits, and their mysterious leader who seems to strug off the strongest blows, how the bandits always know where the Caravans are, ect ect.

the DM knows that the bandit chief is a natural lycanthrope, he is tracking the caravans by scent and is resistant to blows because the guards are not using silver weapons. The smart thing to do is to stock up on silver weapons before going into the woods.

If one of the PLAYERS figured that out, good for them! They say "Hey, let's stock up on silver weapons and go kill a werwolf!"
However, the DMPC, theoretically a full member of the party, cannot do that. To do so would be to use out of character knowledge.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-27, 04:19 PM
I'll grant you that assumptions are being made here, though perhaps not completely baseless. The biggest one is that the DM might cheat, and let's be honest some of them do. If we assume the best about the DM, killing most NPCs and even the DMPC can probably be done. That said, killing them is probably not a good plan "A," even if your group are murder hobos.
Because a GM that will cheat will absolutely respect that NPCs are there to be murder hobo'd, but their PC crosses the line? It's not that a GM can't cheat, it's just that at that point it's irrelevant.


No, it absolutely is not. The GM has a fundamentally different role than the players.
If you run it that way, they certainly can, but the way I handle things, and usually see things handled, the GM just has a slightly more work intensive role than the players.

Also, did you actually read what that option was? Because I'm pretty sure 'discuss the matter like reasonable adults' is always on the table initially.


Do you let your players read the module you're going to run?
How many times am I going to have to answer 'yeah, if they really want to know, they can', before it sinks in? You're kinda wasting your time here asking questions with different words.


...because remembering some details about a monster (hoping that you're not facing a different version), is totally the same thing that knowing that the evil mind behind the recent assassinations is the captain of the guards, even before starting the investigation.
It basically is, from the perspective of "ZOMG OUT OF CHARACTER KNOWLEDGE". There's a difference in scale, for sure, but...


Anyway, the reason why a DMPC is different from a PC, and will always be different, has already been said:
And that's irrelevant to a non-zero number of people.

Killer Angel
2013-02-27, 04:48 PM
How many times am I going to have to answer 'yeah, if they really want to know, they can', before it sinks in? You're kinda wasting your time here asking questions with different words.

I wasn't asking that to you, but to Darius Kane, so yeah, I was interested in DK's PoV. :smallannoyed:

But anyway, since the answer to this specific question, for you is "yes", and for me is "not" (also as a player I would never do it), i believe it's time to agree to disagree.

Exediron
2013-02-27, 05:27 PM
Just a quick summary of what seem to be the dominant arguments of both sides, as I head into part III of my pro-DMPC position:

For:

Good DMPCs are liked by the group and they enjoy interacting with them
They give the DM a chance to enjoy the game from another perspective
In a small group, they can add another player's worth of characters and make the group viable
In a rotating-DM persistent world, they give the DMs/players established characters to play in each others games who don't have to leave in their own
DMPCs can also be used in a pinch as NPCs - to die for other PCs, to provide crucial intelligence, to get captured, etc.

Against:

It is impossible for the DM to act without bias due to absolute foreknowledge
DMPCs take agency away from the other PCs
Running DMPCs slows the DM down and makes the game worse
The DM can exercise absolute power in defense of his/her own characters to make sure they stay on top
DMPCs cannot properly participate in puzzles or one-on-one interaction with NPCs
They have to pass up ideas they might have had in-character because it would be perceived as using DM knowledge
The DM always perceives the world correctly, and as such their character never acts incorrectly due to misunderstanding

To boil it down even further, it seems to me that it all comes down to three main points of contention, the first two of which can be broadly defined as equality and execution; the third is Play Style, and it's what I'm going to focus on this time. I've already covered the other two more-or-less in my earlier arguments.

PLAY STYLE
A third variable which makes a greater difference than even the other two.

I see a great deal of the disagreement here as arising from (possibly irreconcilable) conflicts in play style.

The more competitive the play style, the less DM characters work in the party. By competitive I don't mean traditional PvP - which is actually pretty much irrelevant to my point - but the extent to which the game is viewed as a contest between the players and the world. If overcoming obstacles, be they monster, machine or man, is a major part of the game, then having a player with even an intangible advantage may cause the other players to feel that they are in an unfair position.

But if the game revolves around inherently non-competitive elements - character interaction, the unfolding of the story, experiencing the game world - there is no such thing as advantage from player to player, and the issue becomes less. Such a game may certainly include competitive elements, just as a competitive game doubtlessly contains non-competitive elements - but they are not the focus, and it isn't so important if there's the perception of advantage.

--=-=--

So that's the newest theory I'm working on. It might need some refinement, but I think it's got promise. Later I might post some specific counters to other posts I've seen or put up some examples of my own, but I need to go now. However...

One thing caught my attention enough that I'm going to address it right here:

Originally Posted by Synovia
No, they aren't forced to use it, but by having the DMPC pipe in, he's indicated that its preferred that they do.

It really, really does not. This is a huge and basic misconception that I have to believe goes all the way down to a deep conflict in roleplaying theory. The opinion voiced is that of the character, not the player, be that player DM or no. I don't know how many times my characters have voiced opinions in my own campaign that ran contrary to what I knew or wanted - thousands, certainly. Serpentine also provides a good example in her post.

The first thing a DM needs to make sure is understood if they're running character in their own game is that these characters are not avatars of the DM, and their advice should not be taken as the advice of the DM. A DMPC is utterly fallible to the same extent that a normal character would be. This is utterly essential. Without this assurance, no player can take anything said or done by the DMPC in a neutral light, always trying to read the will of the DM into it.

However, this is starting to touch on character/roleplaying theory, and as such is not the focus of discussion here.

Darius Kane
2013-02-27, 05:35 PM
...because remembering some details about a monster (hoping that you're not facing a different version), is totally the same thing that knowing that the evil mind behind the recent assassinations is the captain of the guards, even before starting the investigation.
Sorry, but... who said it is?


Do you let your players read the module you're going to run?
I can't exactly make them not read it or make them forget if they did in the past. But that doesn't really make me not run that module either. And I trust in the maturity of my players.
Incidentally, The Another Gaming Comic has exactly this in the newest strips. One of the character's (an optimizer) does indeed know the module the DM is running and does a great job at not metagaming.


There is a difference between not metagaming and what a DM running a DMPC must do.
Naw.

BRC
2013-02-27, 05:53 PM
The first thing a DM needs to make sure is understood if they're running character in their own game is that these characters are not avatars of the DM, and their advice should not be taken as the advice of the DM. A DMPC is utterly fallible to the same extent that a normal character would be. This is utterly essential. Without this assurance, no player can take anything said or done by the DMPC in a neutral light, always trying to read the will of the DM into it.

However, this is starting to touch on character/roleplaying theory, and as such is not the focus of discussion here.

And this is where the DMPC must be held separate from the PC.

A PC exists as an extension of the Player. A Player is expected to be attached to their character, they are expected to do whatever they can, within the bounds of the rules, to make their character succeed.
Now, some groups may prioritize RP over decision making, which in this case means a player willingly and knowingly making a bad decision because it would be in-character. However, most of the time what happens is the Player has an idea, then frames it in a way that makes sense for their character, or they use their character to decide between one of several roughly equal options.


Now, in order to do what you are describing, a DM needs to have no attachment to their DMPC, or to the Party's success. The DMPC's decisions need to be guided only by their personality (Which includes a desire for success of course, but a preference for certain methods). Also, the Players need to trust that the DM can do this. They need to trust that the DM has no interest in the DMPC's success. This trust needs to exist to a point where the players are willing to say "No" when the DMPC suggests something.

And here is the thing, it is very, very difficult to know when you have achieved that. Unless the players reject every single one of their suggestions, you never know, because here is the thing, the players Want To Succeed. It's expected of them.
So, if the DM says "X is a good idea", and there is even a suspicion that this is more than the DMPC speaking, the players are more likely to put weight on that.

Exediron
2013-02-27, 05:59 PM
A PC exists as an extension of the Player. A Player is expected to be attached to their character, they are expected to do whatever they can, within the bounds of the rules, to make their character succeed.

Now, some groups may prioritize RP over decision making, which in this case means a player willingly and knowingly making a bad decision because it would be in-character. However, most of the time what happens is the Player has an idea, then frames it in a way that makes sense for their character, or they use their character to decide between one of several roughly equal options.

I disagree with this in the strongest possible terms. I certainly do not expect a player to act that way, I do not act that way when I am a player, and I do not believe a player should act that way.

However, this does feed nicely into my theory that play style is a huge part of the DMPC argument. The play style you describe clearly does not support DMPCs, but it is also very definitely not the only play style. Nor is it one I would want to be a part of.

Talakeal
2013-02-27, 06:02 PM
I disagree with this in the strongest possible terms. I certainly do not expect a player to act that way, I do not act that way when I am a player, and I do not believe a player should act that way.

However, this does feed nicely into my theory that play style is a huge part of the DMPC argument. The play style you describe clearly does not support DMPCs, but it is also very definitely not the only play style. Nor is it one I would want to be a part of.

Could you please ellaborate on this? I am not sure what it is you objecting to.

BRC
2013-02-27, 06:15 PM
I disagree with this in the strongest possible terms. I certainly do not expect a player to act that way, I do not act that way when I am a player, and I do not believe a player should act that way.

However, this does feed nicely into my theory that play style is a huge part of the DMPC argument. The play style you describe clearly does not support DMPCs, but it is also very definitely not the only play style. Nor is it one I would want to be a part of.

I agree with you that there is a playstyle that supports DMPC's. It is just a very difficult playstyle to maintain, because it requires both excellent discipline and roleplaying on the part of the DM, and trust on the part of the players.
It should be noted that when I say a player is motivated to have their character succeed, I do not necessarily mean that they are expected to metagame. What I mean is that their thought process starts at "What is the best move here", not "What would my character think is the best move here". It does not mean that everybody is an optimization-heavy munchkin with no regard for staying in-character. I have played with some wonderful roleplayers. Usually the Player and the Character's goals are identical, both want to succeed. Usually, a Player uses their character to define "Success", a greedy rogue may define success as walking out of the dungeon with lots of loot.

It's like with character building. It's not like everybody is expected to play the most powerful build possible, but you're expected to come to the table with a character who can hold their own given the party's level of optimization. The Players are expected to make decisions they believe will lead to the party's success, provided those decisions are consistent with their characters.

Now for players there is no real challenge here. The Players goal is usually the characters goal: Success, and generally speaking they have the exact same tools available to them to solve the problem.

For the DM things are different, and much more complicated. Not only are his goals different, he has a different range of tools, some of which can be used very subtly, perhaps even subconsciously.

kardar233
2013-02-27, 06:18 PM
PLAY STYLE
A third variable which makes a greater difference than even the other two.

I see a great deal of the disagreement here as arising from (possibly irreconcilable) conflicts in play style.

The more competitive the play style, the less DM characters work in the party. By competitive I don't mean traditional PvP - which is actually pretty much irrelevant to my point - but the extent to which the game is viewed as a contest between the players and the world. If overcoming obstacles, be they monster, machine or man, is a major part of the game, then having a player with even an intangible advantage may cause the other players to feel that they are in an unfair position.

But if the game revolves around inherently non-competitive elements - character interaction, the unfolding of the story, experiencing the game world - there is no such thing as advantage from player to player, and the issue becomes less. Such a game may certainly include competitive elements, just as a competitive game doubtlessly contains non-competitive elements - but they are not the focus, and it isn't so important if there's the perception of advantage.

This is a very important point.

Just recently, I proposed a two-person campaign with another member of our group. It was what I provisionally called a "development" campaign, focused on defining and refining characters and the interactions between them, as opposed to what I termed an "advancement" campaign which deals primarily with facing and overcoming challenges.

The two of us made our characters; mine was Ky, a cute-as-a-button wild child with no contact with human civilization past a princess fixation. Her counterpart was Charena, a classic femme fatale with a secret heart of gold. The whole campaign was predicated on the social dynamic between the two characters, and seeing how they changed through their interaction. So far, Ky has gotten over much of her tendencies to being a doormat (except where Charena is concerned) and has adapted to the medieval setting (the game is set in the Belgariad world) fairly well. Charena has softened quite a bit (especially where Ky is concerned) and has mostly got over the creepy psychopathic streak she has been dealing with most of her life. Also, they got married. It was very romantic.

Now, it's pretty safe to say that Charena's player had the DM's role, having to describe and explain the environment and portray NPCs. Ky's mindset is significantly different from mine to the point where I wouldn't have been able to duck in and out of character to deal with DM duties (as all the NPCs would start sounding like Ky).

And it worked just fine. Sure, there were a couple of awkward moments where Charena was talking to NPCs, but since the focus on on Charena and Ky's interactions they never lasted overly long before the conversation started involving Ky again.

And since the campaign wasn't predicated on overcoming obstacles, it never was an issue that Charena had more knowledge than she should have had. Even if her player hadn't been keeping track of the distinction between what she knew and what the DM knew, there was no opportunity for that to become an issue. If we needed to find a secret door (for whatever reason) it didn't particularly matter whether Charena or Ky found it, and how long it took, as any outcome offered roleplaying opportunities, whether Ky found it immediately and took great pride in Charena's praise or whether Charena found it after hard work and Ky was quietly impressed.

In what I'd call an "advancement" campaign, it could be a serious issue if the DM had a character, but it could be avoided with careful DMing. In a "development" campaign, it's really no issue at all.

Exediron
2013-02-27, 06:20 PM
Could you please ellaborate on this? I am not sure what it is you objecting to.

I'll try, but I'm skirting a delicate line here. I have strong opinions on some particular styles of roleplaying.

The style of roleplaying I am a firm adherent to is that to roleplay is to put yourself inside the mind of the character, to become as close to that character as is practically possible, to become that person for the duration of the game in every decision you make and line you speak - while in character, naturally. I'm not crazy here or anything.

When you put yourself inside the mind of a character like this - start to act like them, talk like them - any knowledge foreign to the character should be inaccessible to you. I read BRC's post as implying that the character should be considered a sort of avatar of the player in the game, a way for the player to - in essence - act within the game world. This runs directly contrary to my belief, which is that you create what is as close to a full, living character as you can and then you allow that character to exist through your playing of them.

The thought process he describes (the Player has an idea, then frames it in a way that makes sense for their character) is completely backwards to my way of thinking. The player ought to think first and only of what the character would be thinking of. It should never enter in what the player thinks is a good idea, beyond the unavoidable background pollution resulting from the fact that the player is still actually doing the thinking. But if I could eliminate that, I would.

--=-=--

Hopefully that makes my position clearer without sounding insulting. I don't mean to imply that I think this is the only way of doing things, but it is the way I strive to play. And in my opinion if you can already do that, it's trivial to suppress the additional knowledge that comes from being the DM.

EDIT: Also, welcome back to the thread - it hasn't (quite) become an argument yet :smalltongue:

SECOND EDIT: Thank you, kardar233 - that's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about, and it sounds like you had a successful game with the DM running one of the characters. I think your separation of advancement/development is probably better than my own of competitive/non-competitive, largely because it sounds less judgmental.

Yukitsu
2013-02-27, 06:24 PM
oooh, ooh, can I use sarcasm too? :smalltongue:

...because remembering some details about a monster (hoping that you're not facing a different version), is totally the same thing that knowing that the evil mind behind the recent assassinations is the captain of the guards, even before starting the investigation.

Do you let your players read the module you're going to run?

I can just chip in on this, but it is actually very possible for a player to in character acquire or have all of that or any relevant knowledge at their disposal, depending on how they build and RP their character. This doesn't somehow immediately diminish the fact that they are a player character. I have played enough diviners/social butterflies in game to know that that information can come very easy with the right builds.

BRC
2013-02-27, 06:39 PM
Snip

This is great for what I'm talking about.

DnD, along with most other systems, are based around "Advancement" campaigns and the overcoming of obstacles. There is room for development in those games, some of the best experiences I've ever had were just characters sitting around talking with one another. But that's why so much of the rulebook is dedicated to overcoming obstacles.


I'll try, but I'm skirting a delicate line here. I have strong opinions on some particular styles of roleplaying.

The style of roleplaying I am a firm adherent to is that to roleplay is to put yourself inside the mind of the character, to become as close to that character as is practically possible, to become that person for the duration of the game in every decision you make and line you speak - while in character, naturally. I'm not crazy here or anything.

When you put yourself inside the mind of a character like this - start to act like them, talk like them - any knowledge foreign to the character should be inaccessible to you. I read BRC's post as implying that the character should be considered a sort of avatar of the player in the game, a way for the player to - in essence - act within the game world. This runs directly contrary to my belief, which is that you create what is as close to a full, living character as you can and then you allow that character to exist through your playing of them.

The thought process he describes (the Player has an idea, then frames it in a way that makes sense for their character) is completely backwards to my way of thinking. The player ought to think first and only of what the character would be thinking of. It should never enter in what the player thinks is a good idea, beyond the unavoidable background pollution resulting from the fact that the player is still actually doing the thinking. But if I could eliminate that, I would.


This is what I'm talking about. What you call "Unavoidable Background Pollution" I call "being invested in your character", and it's personally something I like to encourage. I like to have my players feel triumphant when they succeed, and feel threatened when their characters do.

You say you strive for "Getting inside the head of the character", and if you can pull that off, good for you. However, that is very, very difficult and not something I would feel comfortable expecting everybody to do. If a player tries to do that, but fails, then they can feel trapped by their own character. A player should be having fun playing their character in the game.
I personally think it is enough that a decision is COMPATIBLE with the character who is theoretically making it. As in that is 1: the type of idea they could have, and 2: the type of idea they could decide to follow up on. If it passes those criteria, that is acceptable.

Example: Zombie Plague campaign, my character was part of an order of monks that was dedicated to preventing the spread of the plague. Other members of the order had barricaded the city in order to prevent the spread of infection. Some of my fellow party members discussed breaking out, I said that if they tried, I would try to stop them, because breaking the quarantine was not compatible with my character. At least not until later when we learned that the plague had gotten out anyway and spread throughout the land. In terms of our character's goals (Survive), it would have been a good idea to get out of the zombie-infested city, but breaking his sacred vows to contain and destroy the plague would be too high a cost for him.


Now, what you're calling for is stricter criteria. You must decide not only COULD they have this idea, but is it LIKELY enough that you feel comfortable doing so.

Example: Different campaign, I was playing a sort of con-artist character, most of the PC's were revolutionaries fighting the evil government.

Had I truly been "Inside" my character's head, I would have fled at the first opportunity to resume my grifting ways. Honest Giovani was no fan of the government, but he was not really a revolutionary. Truly, the in-character thing would have been to make a hide check when the party wasn't looking and run off. Honest Giovani WOULD NOT join the revolution. Not while he could comfortably dodge the constables and make a living selling "Magic" rings.

Be he COULD join the revolution. He could decide that the empire needed to fall, he could decide that he could have a better payday toppling the imperial throne than scamming gullible travelers by the side of the road. He could even decide that it was worth the extra risk because the rebels were good people, he was really good at punching (One level of Monk, Plus a feat that let Monk and Rogue levels stack).
As a result, Giovanni stuck around, sucker-punching Imperial guards, forging documents, and lending his services to the Rebels while selling fake potions to travelers when the Paladin of Freedom wasn't looking. Was it In-Character for Giovanni to stay, no it was not, but it was the best decision in terms of me staying in the game, and it wasn't 100% Out of character either.

Had I gone with 100% what Giovanni would have done, I would have been trapped by my character, forced to make decisions I knew would mean I would have less fun in the game because that's what he would be most likely to do. I could have turned him into a government-hating revolutionary, but I didn't want to play one of those. I wanted to play a fast-talking con artist. Something had to give, and I decided to justify what decisions I wanted to make, rather than change who my character was in order to have him make the decisions he needed to.

Exediron
2013-02-27, 07:20 PM
This is great for what I'm talking about.

I think it's interesting that both of us - who are arguing very different viewpoints - think that post was great for what we are talking about. :smallsmile:


This is what I'm talking about. What you call "Unavoidable Background Pollution" I call "being invested in your character", and it's personally something I like to encourage. I like to have my players feel triumphant when they succeed, and feel threatened when their characters do.

No, that's not quite it. What I call "Unavoidable Background Pollution" is the fact that I think in a certain way, have certain deep-rooted preconceptions and thought patterns that will always apply to my characters rather I want them to or not. I can force myself to try to think in different ways, but the fact is that some things just won't occur to me that would have occurred to my character or vice versa. Whatever seems to me the most natural answer is always going to be the first one that comes into my mind, and the further the character is from me the longer it will take to come up with the correct thinking for that character.

I think being invested and attached to your character is great - I don't see how it's mutually exclusive to anything else I've said. If you're properly inside the mindset of your character, won't you feel threatened when that character is in danger?


You say you strive for "Getting inside the head of the character", and if you can pull that off, good for you. However, that is very, very difficult and not something I would feel comfortable expecting everybody to do. If a player tries to do that, but fails, then they can feel trapped by their own character. A player should be having fun playing their character in the game.
I personally think it is enough that a decision is COMPATIBLE with the character who is theoretically making it. As in that is 1: the type of idea they could have, and 2: the type of idea they could decide to follow up on. If it passes those criteria, that is acceptable.

I'm not doubting it's difficult. It's taken me years to get where I am, and those were years with a very above average level of playing time. It's impossible for me to say how much time I've spent role-playing, but I estimate 3, maybe 4 thousand hours at least. You never stop getting better, but I do believe I've reached a point where I can handle what I describe well enough.

You raise a valid point, and many players wouldn't feel comfortable with that level of role-playing even if they were capable. It's inherently not a casual style, and doesn't work so well in a casual game. I scale back in a casual game, in fact, as I find my method of getting inside the character requires too much time and energy to sustain in a biweekly game - with such an infrequent game too much of the session must be devoted to just playing the characters to actually accomplish anything if you want to develop and maintain that level of character.

Making a believable decision is all that's really necessary, I agree - I simply enjoy the fuller immersion. The example you give further down is a tricky situation - when you're playing a character in a game that the character wouldn't be interested in. There isn't necessarily any single good solution. It's one of the reasons I prefer to avoid scenario specific games such as that and go instead for open world (here is the world and what's going on, and here's something that happens; react as you will) games where the characters are freer to choose their own path.

--=-=--

However, to get back on topic: It seems that at this point we're actually agreed that with a compatible play style DMPCs can work, however rare that play style may be in general. All I was arguing from the beginning is that a DMPC can in fact be the same thing as a PC and can be a good thing for the game, given the right game.

Acanous
2013-02-27, 07:34 PM
However, to get back on topic: It seems that at this point we're actually agreed that with a compatible play style DMPCs can work, however rare that play style may be in general. All I was arguing from the beginning is that a DMPC can in fact be the same thing as a PC and can be a good thing for the game, given the right game.

Levels in monk can be good for a build, given the right game.

Doesn't make it a good idea in general, and most people will (Rightly) advise against it.

There's always going to be a niche case where it's OK to do. There's always the potential that it can be a GOOD thing. There's also the potential that you can walk to a 7-11, buy a scratch n' win, and actually win back more than you spent.

It's not common, commonly it's a bad idea, yet it appeals to certain people anyway.

kardar233
2013-02-27, 07:59 PM
I'm not doubting it's difficult. It's taken me years to get where I am, and those were years with a very above average level of playing time. It's impossible for me to say how much time I've spent role-playing, but I estimate 3, maybe 4 thousand hours at least. You never stop getting better, but I do believe I've reached a point where I can handle what I describe well enough.

You raise a valid point, and many players wouldn't feel comfortable with that level of role-playing even if they were capable. It's inherently not a casual style, and doesn't work so well in a casual game. I scale back in a casual game, in fact, as I find my method of getting inside the character requires too much time and energy to sustain in a biweekly game - with such an infrequent game too much of the session must be devoted to just playing the characters to actually accomplish anything if you want to develop and maintain that level of character.

I took acting classes for quite a while, so my role-playing is heavily influenced by method acting, and vice versa.

Getting deeply into a character is something I reserve for games with my group, as a) it's very personal, in that you're revealing unusual aspects of yourself and b) it can be somewhat unsettling to see me take on the aspects of Ky, for example.

I don't find actually getting into character for a session overly arduous; it rarely takes more than ten minutes. I key my characters to music to make it easy to access them; for example, Ky responds to You Raise Me Up (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-17NWRddUk), while other characters are based on I Have The Touch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjOxwzvybVs), When You're Evil (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ujzp9ffPwPM) and Thunderstruck (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8d7OBluielc).


It's one of the reasons I prefer to avoid scenario specific games such as that and go instead for open world (here is the world and what's going on, and here's something that happens; react as you will) games where the characters are freer to choose their own path.

Yeah, this is another good point. When I'm in my home group (and thus generally immersing myself into a character) I find it difficult to go along with predetermined plotlines like those that might be found in a module. This is generally because predetermined plotlines make the assumption that the characters will be interested in the plot, and when it isn't the case it's normally handwaved due to metagame concerns. For example, I was in a campaign set in the Iron Kingdoms, and my character had had a part of her soul ripped out by Calaban the Gravewalker. For the next part of the campaign she acted with considerably less moral fibre than she had before (a choice I had made for dramatic reasons) and when she got her soul back eventually she had a bit of a (anti-)Heroic BSOD because she processed just how bad her actions had been. In penance she embarked on a quest to save the world from Toruk, a giant evil dragon god.

Also:


Thank you, kardar233 - that's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about, and it sounds like you had a successful game with the DM running one of the characters. I think your separation of advancement/development is probably better than my own of competitive/non-competitive, largely because it sounds less judgmental.


This is great for what I'm talking about.


I think it's interesting that both of us - who are arguing very different viewpoints - think that post was great for what we are talking about.

Aww, thanks. :smallredface:

Talakeal
2013-02-27, 08:09 PM
I'll try, but I'm skirting a delicate line here. I have strong opinions on some particular styles of role-playing.

The style of role-playing I am a firm adherent to is that to role-play is to put yourself inside the mind of the character, to become as close to that character as is practically possible, to become that person for the duration of the game in every decision you make and line you speak - while in character, naturally. I'm not crazy here or anything.

When you put yourself inside the mind of a character like this - start to act like them, talk like them - any knowledge foreign to the character should be inaccessible to you. I read BRC's post as implying that the character should be considered a sort of avatar of the player in the game, a way for the player to - in essence - act within the game world. This runs directly contrary to my belief, which is that you create what is as close to a full, living character as you can and then you allow that character to exist through your playing of them.

The thought process he describes (the Player has an idea, then frames it in a way that makes sense for their character) is completely backwards to my way of thinking. The player ought to think first and only of what the character would be thinking of. It should never enter in what the player thinks is a good idea, beyond the unavoidable background pollution resulting from the fact that the player is still actually doing the thinking. But if I could eliminate that, I would.

--=-=--

Hopefully that makes my position clearer without sounding insulting. I don't mean to imply that I think this is the only way of doing things, but it is the way I strive to play. And in my opinion if you can already do that, it's trivial to suppress the additional knowledge that comes from being the DM.

EDIT: Also, welcome back to the thread - it hasn't (quite) become an argument yet :smalltongue:

SECOND EDIT: Thank you, kardar233 - that's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about, and it sounds like you had a successful game with the DM running one of the characters. I think your separation of advancement/development is probably better than my own of competitive/non-competitive, largely because it sounds less judgmental.

I didn't ever "leave" the thread, I just stopped participating in the debate.

From your first post I wasn't sure if you were arguing for or against the RP style you described, so I asked for clarification. I agree with the above and RP in much the same manner, to the point where it is hard for me to separate in and out of character thought. This is one of the primary reasons why I DON'T want to ever run a DMPC again, it is simply annoying for me to try and play dumb (the same reason I usually take a lot of "lore" skills when I PC), and being passive and not participating a lot for metagame reasons is really out of character.

Note that I don't see "competitive" play to be in opposition to deep role-playing, quite the opposite. My character wants to succeed, wants to be the best, and wants to overcome challenging obstacles, there is no disconnect between trying to "win" in and out of character.

RPGuru1331
2013-02-27, 08:29 PM
There's always going to be a niche case where it's OK to do. There's always the potential that it can be a GOOD thing. There's also the potential that you can walk to a 7-11, buy a scratch n' win, and actually win back more than you spent.
Again, this is an argument against playing whatever RPG you like *at all*. I guarantee you that you're not immune to Sturgeon's Law. Most everything sucks. Either suck it up and take your chances or don't. It's a different matter entirely if you know for a fact you or a given individual doesn't have the capability to do this particular thing well, but nebulous "Meh these things usually turn out poorly" statements are true for literally everything about playing an RPG.


Had I gone with 100% what Giovanni would have done, I would have been trapped by my character, forced to make decisions I knew would mean I would have less fun in the game because that's what he would be most likely to do. I could have turned him into a government-hating revolutionary, but I didn't want to play one of those. I wanted to play a fast-talking con artist. Something had to give, and I decided to justify what decisions I wanted to make, rather than change who my character was in order to have him make the decisions he needed to.

None of this has anything to do with whether you may or may not be capable of running a GM's PC, I won't lie (Unless both experience and my fellow players and GMs are lying to me outright, I suppose). I'm not a fan of that person's examples at all.


Note that I don't see "competitive" play to be in opposition to deep role-playing, quite the opposite. My character wants to succeed, wants to be the best, and wants to overcome challenging obstacles, there is no disconnect between trying to "win" in and out of character.

Uh, yes you do. The kind of mindset and knowledge that leads to effective optimization necessarily requires either a dispassionate view that can only be obtained from not merely detachment, but thousands of data points, or someone who just HAPPENED to be whatever optimized thing you wanted. Now, it's fine that this stems from OOC thoughts - a lot of things in my games do, and they're OOC thoughts typically spurred by a variation of 'what would be most interesting to us', which for you presumably includes competitive play. But it's still OOC, and I harbor no illusions about that.

Scyrner
2013-02-27, 08:33 PM
Hey Guys

Just thought that I would weigh in on this discussion, as I have run quite a few campaigns for Kardar, all of which included DMPCs to some extent.

I find that, if done well, a DMPC can fit in almost any situation, provided that the DM is aware of the knowledge barrier between him/herself and the character. This can occasionally be difficult to do, even more so in an "Advancement" campaign, where the main plot-line revolves around the surmounting of obstacles placed in the was of the characters by the DM. In a "Development" campaign, however, obstacles that arise are generally able to be handled without the DM's interference, not due to their level of difficulty but due to what characteristic of the PC they challenge.

For example: in a standard Advancement campaign where the villain has set a number of puzzles and/ or riddles for the PCs, the DMPC's contributions would need to be seriously limited, lest he (she) unwittingly let slip important information. However, in a Development campaign, the challenges that arise more often challenge the characters psychological type, rather than their deductive skill or proficiency with bladed objects.

When a PC in a development campaign comes up against something that challenges his or her beliefs, I personally find it most beneficial to have the other members of the party sit back, allowing the character to muddle their way through their problems by themselves (unless they ask for assistance).

For instance: The current campaign that I am running is a 2-person (player and DM) Development saga, set in the Star Wars: The Old Republic universe. The player's character is Fion Ravenwater, an ex-Sith Mandalorian who works as a bounty hunter, largely for the Empire or the Hutts. He is travelling with Mayera Ban, a Twi'lek Jedi Padawan, apprenticed to Nomen Karr. She likes him (romantically) but this is at odds with her devotion to the Jedi Code. For the most part, Fion let her deal with this by herself, his only influence being to get himself a slave-girl and feign disinterest.

Thus far, during my time as a DM, I havenít come across a situation wherein a DMPC would be incompatible, if not done carefully. However, in some campaigns it would be wise to reduce the amount of agency that the DMPC possesses, relegating him (or her) to a state more like that of a well-liked NPC with a character sheet than that of a full PC (this situation is considerably more prevalent in Advancement campaigns then in Development ones).

BRC
2013-02-27, 08:43 PM
None of this has anything to do with whether you may or may not be capable of running a GM's PC, I won't lie (Unless both experience and my fellow players and GMs are lying to me outright, I suppose). I'm not a fan of that person's examples at all.


That example was concerning a tangent about Roleplay in general, rather than DMPC's in particular, and the difficulty of separating one's drive to succeed/make everybody have fun from a character, and therefore a DMPC runs the risk of becoming a Railroad Conductor, whose ideas are seen as "DM's Direction" in disguise.

Of course, a good way to resist that would be to have the DMPC make an honest mistake early on in order to establish their fallibility. But that's secondary, and does not solve every problem.

The Fury
2013-02-27, 10:02 PM
False. He just gave them more options. The players aren't forced to use the information and they can use it however they like.

Exactly. All the DMPC did was provide information, the players can act on the information or ignore it. In some cases the players specifically asked my DMPC what he or she knew.


Because a GM that will cheat will absolutely respect that NPCs are there to be murder hobo'd, but their PC crosses the line?


No, that isn't quite what I meant. What I meant is that when DMs do cheat NPCs that they're attached to typically cannot be killed, this includes the DMPC. Just to clarify, this is assuming the worst of our hypothetical DM and I like to think that cheater DMs and unkillable DMPCs don't happen often. Also, I meant to imply that the reasoned discussion ought to be the first option.


No, they aren't forced to use it, but by having the DMPC pipe in, he's indicated that its preferred that they do.

Oof. Maybe I should explain how I use this in better detail:
Say in this scenario the players have concluded that the necromancer they're looking for has fled to the mountains, this does not mean they're right however. They ask me the DM if there is a likely place that someone might hide within the mountains, I say that it's a DC 15 Knowledge (Geography) to know that. None of the players have that skill, so they ask the DMPC if she knows. Just for the sake of making things a little easy I say that the DMPC has 1 rank in Knowledge (Geography.) This means that she can at least attempt the skill, and maybe the necromancer isn't hiding in the mountains at all. I suppose your mileage may vary on whether I've taken agency away or not, I don't think I have though.

GungHo
2013-02-28, 10:52 AM
The closest I ever get to a DMPC is an NPC that participates for an adventure, like a group mentor or an area guide, and is then retired or pulled to the background because he's doing something else. These characters are utilitarian. They may be able to fight in some capacity because I hate the trope where you have some guy who is perfectly capable of taking care of himself or cast buffs cower in the corner because he's too cool for school (like Zhang's introductory mission in XCOM). However, they're not going to take the spotlight, and while they can take care of themselves, I'm not fudging dice for them, so if the party lets them die, the party is going to be without their services, which can lead to future problems.

If the party really has a deficiency and needs another character and that character is going to be around long-term, I'd rather have a player play two characters and let them figure out the multitasking.

Amphetryon
2013-02-28, 10:55 AM
Just for the sake of making things a little easyThis fragment right here is the crux of the issue. PCs don't typically (key word) have Skills allocated "for the sake of making things a little easy." DMPCs - more often than not, in the experience of a majority of responses I've seen - have no such limitations, because they are more frequently guided by the nature of the plot than the nature of the type of Character their creator wishes to play.

The Fury
2013-02-28, 11:43 AM
This fragment right here is the crux of the issue. PCs don't typically (key word) have Skills allocated "for the sake of making things a little easy. DMPCs - more often than not, in the experience of a majority of responses I've seen - have no such limitations, because they are more frequently guided by the nature of the plot than the nature of the type of Character their creator wishes to play.

Going back to the Knowledge (Geography) issue, say the players are dead-set on looking for the necromancer in the mountains. If they want better information on what the mountains are like and where someone might hide in them, I could have them seek out a library or consult a mapmaker in town. Alternatively, if I give the DMPC the chance of having information that the players can use that can be convenient for them.

Scow2
2013-02-28, 05:46 PM
I can't exactly make them not read it or make them forget if they did in the past. But that doesn't really make me not run that module either. And I trust in the maturity of my players.
Incidentally, The Another Gaming Comic has exactly this in the newest strips. One of the character's (an optimizer) does indeed know the module the DM is running and does a great job at not metagaming.
Did you miss the point why Joe Chaos stopped metagaming, and how his playstyle changed when he was "tripped up" from a homebrew addition? He did a terrible job of "Not metagaming", first getting a token excuse to solve the problem (Such as Detect Thoughts being used as an excuse to ambush a guy hiding behind a lead-lined wall), then solving the problem through OOC knowledge. And when he was called on it he was barred from contributing in any way beyond simple tactical combat decisions.

Darius Kane
2013-02-28, 06:04 PM
So? He knows the module and yet they can play it. And I said "does", not "did".

Shator
2013-02-28, 11:39 PM
The last game I played in the DM almost always had a character that joined up with the party. I don't mind them as long as they don't end up getting more than their fair share of attention. Certainly hogging the attention is something a player character can do too, and it's not really any better or worse imo.

I have to admit the line between NPC and PC I find to be something that can become rather blurry anyways. How are "NPCs" not just really all PCs of the DM anyhow?

I've actually been considering adding a few of what could be called "DMPCs" I suppose, to my game, because I like the idea of the party gaining allies, and followers. Again things become blurry to me, how a character goes from being just a follower or cohort to being a DMPC and suddenly something a lot of people seem to have issues with. I'm still reading through this long thread so maybe these things have been answered and I've missed it...

One thing I'm considering is maybe letting the players have the option of taking control of these otherwise GM controlled characters during battle, and making tactical use of them, because I much prefer to have the PCs figure out how to solve problems using the resources at hand (of which NPCs are a resource). They would kind of be like NPCs in video games, where the player doesn't have control over their dialog, and certain things can happen to drive them away, but during combat the player gains control of them (think Dragon Age, and several similar games that came before it for example) Is this a good idea?