D&D 5E A Guardian Angel... Good or Bad Idea?

INTIMIDAT3R

Villager
I DM'ed my first game 2 weeks ago after a 32 year hiatus(yep, I went on a road trip).

We were all just learning, relearning rules, and having fun with it.

Since it was our first game in over a generation, I kept an ace up my sleeve in case the party got into trouble. I didn't want anyone dying on their first adventure.

The character I kept in reserve, I'll keep his name and identity to myself for now, but he's human. He's 6'8", muscular build, brown neatly trimmed shoulder length hair, goatee, and blue eyes.

Just hint about him, he's been cursed by the gods with eternal life and he doesn't talk because of the guilt and shame he feels.

Anyway, he's pretty much the silent guardian angel of this particular town and countryside.

He wandered into the town one night 2 years ago seeking shelter from a storm.

No one knows who he is or where he came from. The town's folk call him Big John. They think he's a gentle giant, not too smart, but a loveable guy with sad eyes and who disappears into the forest and mountains from time to time.

However, the local barkeep thinks there's more to Big John than meets the eye and what the locals think.

Anyway...

The group was inside an orc's hideout doing well, I might add. I was a little disappointed, because I wanted to introduce Big John as an anonymous guardian angel that they never got a glimpse of.

It wasn't meant to be. They cleaned out the hideout and managed to get a few scars in the process.

Then I got an idea...

There had been 4 orcs that had run out of the hideout, trying to get away.

I thought, "Why not?" The orcs met Big John and their fate.

When the party exited the hideout, they found only the 4 dead orcs, impaled upon glowing white pikes 10 feet in the air and no one else.

The party was just freaked out, excited, and asking questions. The reaction I was looking for.

What was going to be a short term deal with Big John to rescue the party if they got into trouble until they got higher in level, has pleasantly turned into something else and the party is determined to find out who or what dealt with the orcs.

I realize I'm the DM and it's my world, but what do y'all think about this guardian angel idea?

Sorry this kind of rambled on, but I'm kind excited to see where this story goes because I'm not so sure yet.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

payn

Legend
Welcome back. I'd use Big John very sparingly. Players hate being rescued by a high level NPC. As part of your prep Id scour some modules and get advice on challenges so you can get a feel of the wheelhouse. Hopefully the players can feel good about their choices and chances during encounters.

Depending on the group taste you can always toss on this...
 

INTIMIDAT3R

Villager
Welcome back. I'd use Big John very sparingly. Players hate being rescued by a high level NPC. As part of your prep Id scour some modules and get advice on challenges so you can get a feel of the wheelhouse. Hopefully the players can feel good about their choices and chances during encounters.

Depending on the group taste you can always toss on this...
One of favorite songs and I was singing it as a created him.

He's going to stay in the shadows until they get up there equal go him.

I'm basically going to drive them nuts trying to figure who or what is doing things in their adventures.

He'll never fight their battles for them. However, if they happen upon a high level monster they have no chance against, Big John will scare the monster off from a distance. Remaining unseen.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
IMO, one reason the first interaction (of sorts) with Big John worked so well is because it wasn't a rescue, it was a mystery/plot hook. Most groups LOVE plot hooks. And at the same time most groups HATE DM PCs - especially ones who they see as stealing their thunder.

So the trick, as mentioned above, is to be VERY spare in the use of Big John - best if he's not seen as some kind of DM PC but as enigmatic presence that may or may not be an actual ally to the group. And when/if he actually becomes a recognized ally he shouldn't be some completely unattainable near demigod.

To that end, I wouldn't make him some 20th level (basically demigod) superhero. He can be a mid level retired adventurer (so well above the PCs current status) and still easily be the town "guardian angel."

But as a mid level guy, after a few adventures, for example, you can even have the PCs be in a position where the plot hook is saving Big John because he got in over his head and now needs help.

Just some thoughts.
 
Last edited:


Unwise

Adventurer
Insane angels are a staple of my settings. If an angel is separated from their patron, they lack true free will or ambition. They start going mad if they cannot perform their primary functions. They are also naïve and single minded.

Examples of how this can be problematic that I have used:
  • An angel protects the temple and its clerics. The high cleric is corrupted and the bad guy of the adventure. The angel will just do what he is told to do.
  • An angel of vengeance will meet out brutal punishment (normally death) upon anybody it is told is bad. The villagers go to it and tell them that farmer joe stole their pig, it kills the farmer. That dead farmer's wife tells it that the other people lied to it to make it kill an innocents man, it kills those people too, etc etc on and on. Every town feud becomes a massacre.

So having John start off as a real blessing is great, but I would start hinting that he really needs to get home, for his own good and everybody elses.
 

Yora

Legend
Having a Deus Ex Machina save the PCs when things go bad for them is a can of worms that's really hard to close again. When the players realize they never were in actual danger, and probably never will be it drains most tension from the game.
The current situation does not sound bad at all. There's something interesting happening that makes sense. But the potential to lose is a big element in every fight, and removing that aspect by letting players know they will be saved if they make mistakes permanently damages the campaign.
 

Immoralkickass

Explorer
Don't be surprised if your players aren't impressed. Most players don't like the idea of a super powerful NPC babysitting them, its one of the red flags for terrible DMing. They might even ask if Big John was one of the PCs you played before. Not saying you are like this, but most DMs who do this just want to scream "LOOK AT MY SUPER AWESOME (EX)PC! I BUILT HIM! HE'S SO BADASS AND STUFF."

I'd feel really cheated if the enemies get scared off by Big John. Its lame, don't do it. Players don't want to be a spectator to your powerful NPCs.
 

aco175

Legend
A cool twist may be that they meet him and later on he starts loosing his power. Maybe captured by the BBEG and his power is being taken for powering the McGruffin device to take over the world. Now instead of the all powerful NPC that comes to save the party, he needs saving and the PCs are the ones to do it.

For 1st and 2nd level I like to give out an aid scroll to let the PCs gain +5 hp for 8 hours. They can save it, but they should learn to use them.
 

I have had some good luck with a similar character, Tenryu Shen, a gold dragon masquerading as a mere dragonborn priest. The best advice I can provide on this front is:
  1. If possible, try to let Big John meet the party in a way that doesn't immediately reveal to them that he is a guardian angel. Perhaps he's an NPC in a location they're likely to frequent, or can act as a contact for the party to call on when they need information. IOW, make him someone useful to the party without making him someone doing their work for them or impressing them with how badass he is.
  2. Keep his active involvement more or less as you have done here: soft-touch, around the edges, merely nudging events in desirable directions. More or less, you don't want the party to feel like he is "responsible" for their success, but rather that he has given them a helping hand now and then.
  3. Decide on some limits--whether external or self-enforced--that would prevent him from being at their beck and call. In my case, Shen is in town on his own mission, which occupies most of his time (when he isn't assisting with other priestly duties or spending time with his fiancee, that is.) Having limits on what Big John can do, so that again he is a helper and a benefit but not a "we win" button nor a glory hog, is very useful.
  4. Either give Big John a distinct personality and desires, ones that can ground him and give him likable texture and make him a friend, OR make him have no real personality of his own at all....but have one develop as a result of his interactions with the players. The former is what I did, the latter might make more sense for you, and will give the players some sense of "ownership" that can mitigate other problems.
  5. If possible, present situations where Big John has to turn to the PCs for help. This, again, mitigates potential issues, while at the same time emphasizing that the PCs matter. You'll probably want to hold this kind of thing off until later on, perhaps even after the party knows Big John's true identity, but "please help me solve a problem I can't solve on my own" is a great way to tone down potential "DMPC" fears.
Keep in mind that there is no magic bullet on this stuff. The powerful guardian angel character is a risky play, but I have personal experience playing one and having it turn out well. As others have said, you made a good opening move by presenting it as a mystery rather than as the players getting saved. If you can build toward a situation where the players "already" like Big John without knowing it, then you can have a cool or heartwarming revelation later on. Best of luck to you, this sounds like it could be a really fun campaign element if you can pull it off.
 

IMO, one reason the first interaction (of sorts) with Big John worked so well is because it wasn't a rescue, it was a mystery/plot hook. Most groups LOVE plot hooks. And at the same time most groups HATE DM PCs - especially ones who they see as stealing their thunder.
this

I only had this idea work out 1 time (in 2e). I had an NPC who was pretending to be a weak bard join the party after they saved her from bandits... what they didn't know was she was a higher level wizard then they were and the daughter of the leader of the mage guild... officially the guild could not send a representive to the adventure place they were heading (long story) but she was 'just some bard'

I had her interact with them while she had been writing a song (I used a cindy lopra one time after time) and they left her in town as they went to the adventure sights... that kept having a mystirus robbed figure with a muffled voice show up... no one knew who he was until one player asked "Look, if your here to help tell us who you are...how can we contact you"
his answer was somthing only 1 of 4 got at first "If your lost you can look, and you will find me..." 'he' said... best part was thress sessions of her signing "You said go slow, I fell behind" and "Suit case of memories, time after..." trying to get the words right while Ross had a huge grin on his face having figured it out... and asking if she could sit in on there planning sessions even if she wasn't going... after the 3rd session when 'he' showed up again and Kurt called BS "He can't have known..." that jim said "Yeah... wait, shoot what song is it Jessy has been singing" and tony swore then said "Are you kidding me" and I thought we killed ross he turned red laughing since he had figured it out weeks earlier.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
I DM'ed my first game 2 weeks ago after a 32 year hiatus
Welcome back. Did you play 1e or 2e last? I assume you are running 5e, but old rules still work. :)

It‘s a good idea because it’s YOUR idea. As DM, you need to be invested in creating the world. Your players will feed off your enthusiasm and amplify it back.

I think the idea of Big John as a retired adventurer of like 9th level when the players are 1st works. He can be a mentor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), a source of information about the game world and pointing in the direction of the next adventure (Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers movies, M in James Bond), and a role model for service to the people as a worthy adventuring goal.

Could he be an actual Angel? Maybe. Go watch the Clint Eastwood movie “Pale Rider” - sounds very much like what you have in mind, and it gives me chills thinking about how to game that feeling. It’s never revealed what that character is - could be an angel, or ghost, who knows? Perhaps best if it’s never revealed what his exact nature is.

Maybe even you don’t know - could be an unknown you wing for now and figure out later.
 

Jmarso

Adventurer
Lack of genuine threat makes for the most boring of all possible games. Sometimes you need to kill one off just to keep the rest fully invested and consequence-aware. There's no school like the old school. Ever notice in the artwork for AD&D books, often times the characters are in full retreat or panic? The new artwork shows nothing but superheroes kicking monster a$$. Go back to the old.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Lack of genuine threat makes for the most boring of all possible games.
Mostly agree. but the threat doesn't have to be character death. For example, I've found threatening characters STUFF usually elicits much more fear than threatening just the character.

Sometimes you need to kill one off just to keep the rest fully invested and consequence-aware.

If you mean deliberately kill a PC, essentially by fiat? Very, very strong disagree! This is the worst kind of attack on player agency. If I knew or even suspected that a DM killed a PC by fiat, without consent of the player, I'm no longer going to be in that campaign.

There's no school like the old school. Ever notice in the artwork for AD&D books, often times the characters are in full retreat or panic? The new artwork shows nothing but superheroes kicking monster a$$. Go back to the old.

Hogwash, it's no more difficult to challenge the players and provide a great experience as it used to be. I'd argue modern DMs have more tools for doing so.
 

As far as plot possibilities go, when GMing I've always preferred guardian devils to guardian angels.

You can still use them to save PCs bacon when the dice are particularly unkind, but the PCs will never trust them or rely on them, and know they probably have their own agendas, and hate been obligated to them because of the dubious favours they'll get asked to perform as a quid pro quo.

It's a much more fun dynamic.
 


I have seen it played good and bad (No i DON'T want the JLM showing up and stopping threats in front of us... but I also don't want lame excuses why in a world with the Justice League Midnight why our problems are so lesser they don't care)
 


I have seen it played good and bad (No i DON'T want the JLM showing up and stopping threats in front of us... but I also don't want lame excuses why in a world with the Justice League Midnight why our problems are so lesser they don't care)
To give an example of how one can address this in a reasonable way, using my aforementioned example of Tenryu Shen, an actual NPC in my game.
  1. Shen hasn't actually "saved" the party from much of anything. He did one specific thing early on (vaporizing some nasty zombie/spirit creatures so they couldn't infect anyone else). He does have the power to do so, but hasn't really used it, so the party doesn't really feel they "owe" him anything.
  2. It's actually very important to him that his true nature remain secret. He has an important mission, a mission he is not willing to compromise upon, which he (as the party has recently learned) has a personal motive for, not just a religious or casual one. (In specific, the black dragon he's hunting used to be one of his extremely close friends, before they fell to evil, so he feels some degree of personal responsibility.) This is a huge reason why he can't just act freely.
  3. The party actually did several things to help him before he revealed his true nature to them. They had earned his trust, and so he wanted to eliminate the walls of deception between them. This meant the players felt they had achieved something, and made the reveal feel like a reward rather than a sudden surprise/gotcha.
  4. There had been hints, several times, that Shen wasn't ordinary. Just his confidence about dealing with various issues made it clear he wasn't some run-of-the-mill priest. More importantly, I had him do things at various points that left unanswered questions. So, again, the reveal became something the players wanted.
  5. Finally, but perhaps the most important of the bunch...the players just liked Shen before they learned he was really a gold dragon. I had feared he would be hated or viewed as a lame DMPC, but after their first meeting with him they were talking amongst themselves about what his deal might be, and after they had dinner with him and his human fiancée (their wizard/artificer ally, Hafsa), they were actively on board for the shipping.
Finally, the players later on went to Shen to ask for his help. Obviously, having a gold dragon you could call on would be super powerful! But, on the flipside, obviously having a gold dragon you can just summon whenever you like is stupidly overpowered...and doesn't really fit with what this character would do. So, he worked with his fiancée to create some magic items, pairs of earrings. One red, one white, for each of the players. The white earrings allow them to keep in touch with one another (limited transmit-only telepathy to the other bearers, more or less), and allow Shen to monitor their status from a distance. The white earring doesn't let him directly observe them (unless he throws significantly more magic on top), it's more like a vitals monitor--if their vitals go SUPER out of whack, he can try to do something. The red earrings, meanwhile, are a get-out-of-disaster-free card; wherever they are (so long as it is on the mortal plane), they can summon Shen to them in their hour of need, and so long as he isn't bound or completely unable to answer, he WILL come help them. But this is something he has to use very sparingly, because of his mission--the party hasn't used it yet and odds are looking good they probably won't, not unless they really, really need his help.

So...they do kinda, sorta, ish have a "guardian angel." But he's an "angel" with his own agenda and life, who really does like and value the party and the party really does like and value him. The fact that he's their dragon friend is almost totally secondary to the fact that he's their dragon friend.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top