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How Do You Feel About NPC Party Members (A Poll)


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John Dallman

Adventurer
As a player, they're fine provided they don't try to dominate proceedings.

As a GM, I've used NPC party members for several slightly different roles.
  • Representing a sponsoring organisation, to restrain really bad ideas.
  • As a source of expertise, but not of combat power or problem-solving.
  • To fill out a roster when a certain number of people are required, such as a military spaceship crew.
The last of these is what I'm currently running. They needed a gunnery officer, and a pilot. I gave them a fairly relaxed old hand to do gunnery, and to fill in other slots when a player is absent. For the pilot, I gave them a very talented, but undisciplined, newbie, and they've managed to steer her onto a sensible development path. Training is always part of the job of a warship captain, so I tried to make it interesting.
 

What Do I Know About Opinions? Long Term NPC Companions


I'll be running a poll asking your opinions about NPC party members. I'll be running this poll until January 7th, after which time I'll be summarizing the results on my blog. I would love to get your opinions on this question, so if you have thoughts about NPC party members, please feel free to participate.

Thanks for your time!
I have no issue with players having NPC hirelings, NPC party members, or in certain settings with good players, multiple PCs.

I deeply object to GMPCs, a distinction which is about (1) NPCs with full PC abilities in systems which differ and (2) The GM wanting to be front and center in the party, as opposed to letting the players' characters be the spotlight.
 

R_J_K75

Hero
I deeply object to GMPCs, a distinction which is about (1) NPCs with full PC abilities in systems which differ and (2) The GM wanting to be front and center in the party, as opposed to letting the players' characters be the spotlight.
I feel the same. To go one step further, even worse is the DM turned PC who wants to turn their NPC into a PC. Not happening in my game. Hirelings and NPCs that travel with the party for short periods I don't have a problem with but I try and keep it to a minimum.
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
I responded in the additional comments that I’d prefer the NPC be a skill monkey to advance the narrative of the campaign but not involved in combat beyond providing the help action or being threatened in combat so that it adds another dimension that the party has to worry about in combat. Does the party gang up on the BBEG or split their actions to save the NPC from the swarming minions?
 

I like npc party members, but I am very careful not to turn them into my own player character, or have them steal the spotlight. They are also not a tool for me to force plot on my players.

My npc party members contribute to the plot, and they are a handy resource for the players to use as they please. They can bring them along as backup, but npc's tend to be weaker than the players, so they are at risk of dying. In fact, I love targeting npc's with my monsters if they choose to bring them along.

Occasionally I'll have npc's come along due to plot relevance, or a bit of exposition.
 

I feel the same. To go one step further, even worse is the DM turned PC who wants to turn their NPC into a PC. Not happening in my game. Hirelings and NPCs that travel with the party for short periods I don't have a problem with but I try and keep it to a minimum.
I don't even mind long term; I've run games where the PC's were aboard a ship and every member of the 30-being crew except the Captain were NPCs... the other 3 PC's weren't technically crew, but were the reps of the employing agency.
I like npc party members, but I am very careful not to turn them into my own player character, or have them steal the spotlight. They are also not a tool for me to force plot on my players.

My npc party members contribute to the plot, and they are a handy resource for the players to use as they please. They can bring them along as backup, but npc's tend to be weaker than the players, so they are at risk of dying. In fact, I love targeting npc's with my monsters if they choose to bring them along.

Occasionally I'll have npc's come along due to plot relevance, or a bit of exposition.
Same here.
 

Campbell

Legend
As long as they are like actual characters with motivations and goals I do not mind. If they are plot devices or the GM's mouth piece so they can influence player decision making that's a no go for me personally. I also hope that they are not used as get out of jail free cards.
 

As long as they are like actual characters with motivations and goals I do not mind. If they are plot devices or the GM's mouth piece so they can influence player decision making that's a no go for me personally. I also hope that they are not used as get out of jail free cards.

Indeed. One of my biggest frustrations in D&D, is when the DM uses his npc's to take actions that he wants the players to take. Sometimes the DM forgets his role in the game, or wants to prevent the players from ignoring something he badly wants them to interact with. In the last campaign I played in, we started to resent the npc's, and contemplated just shooting them all and be done with it. Its like constantly having someone hovering over your shoulder, ready to take the wheel.
 

corwyn77

Explorer
I feel the same. To go one step further, even worse is the DM turned PC who wants to turn their NPC into a PC. Not happening in my game.
What exactly is the issue here? I've never done it but I wouldn't have a problem with it if the need/opportunity arose. It's not like the previous gm has total control anymore. I certainly don't see it as nearly as bad as turning a former pc into an npc when gming.
 

What exactly is the issue here? I've never done it but I wouldn't have a problem with it if the need/opportunity arose. It's not like the previous gm has total control anymore. I certainly don't see it as nearly as bad as turning a former pc into an npc when gming.

Yeah, I don't see a problem with this either. I have played plenty of games where we often switched DM. This meant that pc's would often turn into npc's as a player took up DM duty. We've even had old pc's show up in other campaigns as npc's. I don't mind a cameo like that.
 

R_J_K75

Hero
What exactly is the issue here? I've never done it but I wouldn't have a problem with it if the need/opportunity arose. It's not like the previous gm has total control anymore. I certainly don't see it as nearly as bad as turning a former pc into an npc when gming.
To me its both the same. If you have player bring in an npc as a pc as the current dm you have no control as to how the character was generated, if its balanced and magical items they have. When a PC is turned into a npc same holds true if the npc is ever put back into play as a pc. Just my experience and its just as easy to create a new pc and less opportunity for it causing a problem.
 


R_J_K75

Hero
Seems to me like your real issue is with someone bringing an unbalanced player character into the game.

I feel that is an entirely separate issue.
No not exactly. NPCs dont necessarily have to follow the same rules when generating or leveling that PCs do, and nor should they if the DM doesn't want them to. Generally most npcs are unstated window dressing, a bar keep, dock hand, or merchant. Then you have town guards, caravan masters, etc with a few stats,. When it comes to full statted npcs with character levels its not uncommon for DMs to give them abilities so they can fill the role they need them to in an adventure campaign. This usually means giving them a few extra abilities, a specific magical item, piece of knowledge or contacts. Thats why Im opposed to letting previously established npcs into my game as pcs.
 

aco175

Legend
I play with NPCs in the party. I guess I have 2 kinds with one being more a PC and the other more a NPC/monster. The PC or DMPC that people talk about is more like a player PC, but more a tag-along to fill a role the party needs. This may be because there are only a couple players and a rounded party is more how the game is set up. There may a module I want to run and do not want to modify to two PCs. I have never had an issue with my DMPC being a high level PC that overpowers the others, or is someone who has information or leadership over the other PCs. They do tend to be more one dimensional with an example of a fighter who gambles his coins away on food and drink.

The NPC/monster is designed on a monster statblock and is there to provide information and aid for the other PCs. These tend to be short-timers and stay with the rest of the party for a session or several and may return at another time. A recent NPC of this type was a scout that searched out the PCs to aid him in cultist aligning with orcs in the forest. She provided information and a plot hook for the players and led them to the lair. She provided little fighting power to the party since she was 8 levels below the rest of the PCs. After the monsters were dealt with, she led them to the village and had a drink with them before leaving. There are several like this that come and go through the campaign. I cannot remember one that was higher level than the PCs, with more being a few to several levels below the PCs to not take their spotlight away.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
Personally I can't stand NPCs who are members of The Party. The Party is a sacred organization that should only ever include PCs.

Now, long term NPCs whom The Party interacts with on a regular basis is a different thing. If The Party travels the galaxy in a Corellian Corvette, then the crew that runs the ship will surely be interacted with on a regular basis. Some NPC crew members might even have names, and The Party might even be sad if they die. However, during the tense negotiation in Jabba's Palace wherein The Party must once again explain to Jabba that they can't pay off their depts, Random Crew Member #32 will not be present, even Captain Hat With A Brim won't be there. Only the PCs will be because they are the stars of Corvette Shenanigans: A Star Wars Story, Captain Hat is just an extra.

The PCs are the movie stars, the NPCs are the extras.
 

pogre

Legend
If I am running a small game with one or two players, then we will occasionally have NPC party members. If I have three or more players I never have NPCs as part of the party.
 

I don't use them. My current group does have three hirelings, but two are just guards for the cart wile the PCs are elsewhere.

Each of my five players runs two PCs, generally a pure combatant and a specialist; this has been the practice of our group since 2002, and is very popular. New players just run one for a few session in order to get the feel for the campaign.
 

I have no issue with players having NPC hirelings, NPC party members, or in certain settings with good players, multiple PCs.

I deeply object to GMPCs, a distinction which is about (1) NPCs with full PC abilities in systems which differ and (2) The GM wanting to be front and center in the party, as opposed to letting the players' characters be the spotlight.
I have a GMPC, because it is the only way that we can have enough PCs. Only one of my players is at the point where she can take on two PCs. The other tried, but he didn't do too well at it. Even then, we sometimes have to drag my husband in if we are getting slaughtered.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
I have a GMPC, because it is the only way that we can have enough PCs. Only one of my players is at the point where she can take on two PCs. The other tried, but he didn't do too well at it. Even then, we sometimes have to drag my husband in if we are getting slaughtered.
Why not just tone down the difficulty of combat encounters so the extra GMPCs aren't needed? I mean, as GM, everything is up to you so toning down the difficulty of combat is a simple choice you can just make. I once ran a decent length campaign for a single player playing a single PC, and not once did I need to have a GMPC in order to make combat survivable. As GM you control how the imaginary world works, you can easily make combat survivable for a party without needing extra GMPCs, it's a trivial thing to do!
 

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