View Full Version : Roleplaying The "TPC" - Temporary Player Character

2016-02-01, 06:31 PM
A question, mostly for GMs but also players.

Have you ever used "Temporary Player Characters" - by this I mean NPCs (not a part of the party, only involved in short, select parts of the story) who are too important and are too likely to need to interact with other NPCs to remain solely under the control of the GM. What my group has done once or twice is to have these characters played either by players, or by people outside the group who like to play, but can't commit to session after session. The set-up of the character is done between the GM and the person, and while they're still an NPC in terms of the story (and are effected by social skills as well), they are voiced and controlled by the player.

I've seen/thought about this in a few different scenarios:

The villain with personality - when a GM wants a villain that introduces a bigger element on unpredictability or personality into the campaign, or where the villain has a persona that the GM feels another person can carry off better
The plotter - where the villains abilities in plotting or deception outdo the GM's ability to portray
The 'Companion' - where you need for a couple of sessions what would otherwise be a GMPC, instead giving this to another person so it can be more fun
The 'refresher' - Just as a great way to rotate people in and out of games, and keep them involved even if they can't commit to all the sessions.

I have come across complications and problems with doing this, for example, as a player who temporarily took on as a villain, it was hard not to be *too* evil to the PCs. It was really, really fun though, since the GM just kinda lay back and watched as this Xanatos-style villain did a lot of plotting work for him with a pretty awesome conclusion.

Even if the other players really, really, really, REALLY loathed the villain (in a good way)

So just curious as to what other people's experience of this idea has been... and slightly more on point, whether this would work for a PbP, recruiting a smallish party to begin with, but keeping the option open for other interested people to come in as NPCs

2016-02-02, 01:02 AM
I have, in the past, used temporary characters for when somebody's character died early in a session.

Rather than have the player sit out the rest of the evening, I hauled out an NPC that I'd planned to introduce right afterward, and let the player have them for the rest of the session. They weren't as powerful or detailed as a PC, but they had the ability to make some contributions, which was what I was aiming for.

Once they got to a good spot in-game, and the player had a chance to build a new character, the player introduced the new character and the NPC went back to being an NPC. (Although on one occasion, the PC liked the NPC enough that they asked to rebuild them as a PC and use them permanently.)

EDIT: I've also thought about doing a sort of flashback sequence, when the party stumbles on the scene of a massacre. The characters make some skill checks to figure out what happened, and if they succeed, you give everybody simple NPCs and have them play through the massacre, getting horribly killed. Then tell them "that's what your characters think happened."

2016-02-08, 12:50 AM
I use TPCs regularly in my games. My group is pretty consistent, so I don't have to worry about player turnover. I don't overly punish them for splitting the party though, and occasionally a PC (or a pair of them) might need to disappear for a side mission while the rest of them carry on. Once a campaign gets under way I keep a small retinue of friendly NPCs around the party that can be ready to "jump in" if such a split happens. The side quest PCs go on their way, and the player has a small selection of characters to pick from (the friendly NPCs). I let them build the new character at the appropriate level and join the game again using this secondary character.

Now eventually those side quest PCs return... and when they do I give the player the choice of resuming with their PC or continuing with the TPC. Whichever they don't choose I work out of the game soon after. In a game a couple years ago, the entire group LOVED both of one guy's PCs so we kept both in the party, but I made him pick which one he would play each session/mission and the other would stay at the HQ.

I haven't let any of them take over villains and joint he party though... there are only a couple people I would trust that to and expect them to do a good job with it from a storytelling perspective.

2016-02-08, 04:14 PM
Im an avid fan of Ars Magicka, a system that uses "Troupe Play". Besides everyone having a "personal" character, there is a whole pool of characters that you can pick and chose from when the situation arises.

Besides that, Im quite pleased how most Paizo APs handle that by throwing in lots of support NPCs that are given over to the players to handle.