• COMING SOON! -- The Awfully Cheerful Engine on Kickstarter! An action comedy RPG inspired by cheerful tabletop games of the 80s! With a foreword by Sandy 'Ghostbusters' Petersen, and VTT support!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

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


log in or register to remove this ad

So you're saying that you've never been in a game where there was inter-character drama but the players kept in managable because they wanted to keep adventuring together? Wow, that's some dry and bland groups.
Uhh .. no, not saying that at all. I think you might be confusing characters and players here. Sorry if this seems a bit pedantic or basic, but here goes:

What I said was "no-one -- GM or player -- gets to run a character that the players would prefer not to have around". This is a statement about players -- I made that very clear -- if the players prefer not to have a character in the group, it doesn't happen.

What you said was "there was inter-character drama but the players kept in managable" and you are making a statement about characters not wanting other characters in the group.

I assume you just read hastily, but honestly, this is a very basic distinction that must be understood in any discussion of role-playing games, and substituting one for the other doesn't help the discussion. So, just too be clear:

Inter-character drama is a good thing. It is common in every campaign I am involved in. My current pathfinder character hates my wife's character and wishes they were not in the party. Myself (the player) and my wife (the other player) do not hate either character and neither of us (the players) want the other character not to be in the party.

I'm actually a big fan of the DramaSystem system where the characters are massively adversarial and are typically driven to passionately hate one another. The last time I played, one character forced me to drink poison, crippling my character for life, and I tried to get her killed, but settled for exile. As the name suggest, DramaSystem is designed too feature inter-character drama. But when we draw up characters we are careful to make sure that the characters will be fun for all the other players to enjoy.
 

Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
Depends who it is. I play with friends. If we DM and have a dm pealing for the ride we sort of forget them since we have real work to do. However, we feel free to use them later if a friend DMs.

I have never not ever seen someone get confused about the responsibility of the DM. We used to both play and dm when our group was only 2-3 strong.

but it’s about maturity. If I was to DM and have a dm pc I defer to party decision making and usually don’t push for items they want unless we roll to decide. Should it be my turn to play that changes and I am a full pc.

much less of that now since our group has grown so not needed.

all of that said, without perfect conditions of playing with good pals this would be ripe for problems...huge problems.

I will do this without objection with friends. Otherwise I would be exceedingly cautious and skeptical.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
What I said was "no-one -- GM or player -- gets to run a character that the players would prefer not to have around". This is a statement about players -- I made that very clear -- if the players prefer not to have a character in the group, it doesn't happen.
How many players does it take to veto a character? If it's just one, you've got a problem: a player could keep vetoing characters until the party lineup was exactly what that player wanted. Add another player doing the same thing but with different tastes/preferences and bang goes that game.

If it takes more than one player to veto a character, where do you draw the line?

Also, how do you handle (or would you even allow?) characters with major things about them that are hidden from the other players/PCs, e.g. a character who is one class (say, Druid/Fighter multi) masquerading as another class (say, Ranger); or one who is running as one class (say, Fighter) while hiding a second (say, Thief)? I've done both of these combos as player - the "Ranger" had them fooled for the whole time he was with the party (just one adventure, sadly).

Further question: can a character be player-vetoed after it's already been in the party for a while? If yes, that sounds like another recipe for disaster.
What you said was "there was inter-character drama but the players kept in managable" and you are making a statement about characters not wanting other characters in the group.

I assume you just read hastily, but honestly, this is a very basic distinction that must be understood in any discussion of role-playing games, and substituting one for the other doesn't help the discussion. So, just too be clear:

Inter-character drama is a good thing. It is common in every campaign I am involved in. My current pathfinder character hates my wife's character and wishes they were not in the party. Myself (the player) and my wife (the other player) do not hate either character and neither of us (the players) want the other character not to be in the party.
That's great! You've kept your characters' feelings separated from your own - excellent.

My worry with the player-veto system is that it just turns the whole thing into something of a meta-popularity contest. Far better IMO to just sort it out in-character and base things only on whether the characters want a character around. Otherwise I could see this fairly quickly becoming an example of players telling other players what to play and-or how to play it.
I'm actually a big fan of the DramaSystem system where the characters are massively adversarial and are typically driven to passionately hate one another. The last time I played, one character forced me to drink poison, crippling my character for life, and I tried to get her killed, but settled for exile. As the name suggest, DramaSystem is designed too feature inter-character drama. But when we draw up characters we are careful to make sure that the characters will be fun for all the other players to enjoy.
That sounds like a cool system.

Making characters fun for others to enjoy, however, can come down to guesswork even in groups that know each other well (says he, speaking from experience). Sometimes a character seems fine on paper and even in play but for some reason the other players just don't like it (even if their characters do like it). I don't think that's reason enough for the character to get the boot on the meta-level.

Conversely, even if the players love a particular character, if the characters don't like it then it very much could get the boot.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Uhh .. no, not saying that at all. I think you might be confusing characters and players here. Sorry if this seems a bit pedantic or basic, but here goes:

What I said was "no-one -- GM or player -- gets to run a character that the players would prefer not to have around". This is a statement about players -- I made that very clear -- if the players prefer not to have a character in the group, it doesn't happen.

What you said was "there was inter-character drama but the players kept in managable" and you are making a statement about characters not wanting other characters in the group.

I assume you just read hastily, but honestly, this is a very basic distinction that must be understood in any discussion of role-playing games, and substituting one for the other doesn't help the discussion. So, just too be clear:

Inter-character drama is a good thing. It is common in every campaign I am involved in. My current pathfinder character hates my wife's character and wishes they were not in the party. Myself (the player) and my wife (the other player) do not hate either character and neither of us (the players) want the other character not to be in the party.

I'm actually a big fan of the DramaSystem system where the characters are massively adversarial and are typically driven to passionately hate one another. The last time I played, one character forced me to drink poison, crippling my character for life, and I tried to get her killed, but settled for exile. As the name suggest, DramaSystem is designed too feature inter-character drama. But when we draw up characters we are careful to make sure that the characters will be fun for all the other players to enjoy.
I'm not sure if you noticed what of your previous comment I had quoted and was responding to. It was the part where you were talking about PCs - characters. The gist of what I quoted and relied to was "In my games, no-one -- GM or player -- gets to run a character that the players would prefer not to have around. Our goal is to have fun, and not force people to accept an annoying PC."
(Bolding mine.)

What I quoted of you, and what I was talking about as well, was about characters.

What you are saying now is out of sync with what you said earlier that I quoted. I agree with what you are saying here. We often have inter-party drama, and as players we check with other players before putting them into play.
 
Last edited:

pemerton

Legend
In my games, no-one -- GM or player -- gets to run a character that the players would prefer not to have around. Our goal is to have fun, and not force people to accept an annoying PC.
So you're saying that you've never been in a game where there was inter-character drama but the players kept in managable because they wanted to keep adventuring together?
Uhh .. no, not saying that at all. I think you might be confusing characters and players here. Sorry if this seems a bit pedantic or basic, but here goes:

What I said was "no-one -- GM or player -- gets to run a character that the players would prefer not to have around". This is a statement about players -- I made that very clear -- if the players prefer not to have a character in the group, it doesn't happen.
I'm not sure if you noticed what of your previous comment I had quoted and was responding to. It was the part where you were talking about PCs - characters. The gist of what I quoted and relied to was "In my games, no-one -- GM or player -- gets to run a character that the players would prefer not to have around. Our goal is to have fun, and not force people to accept an annoying PC."
(Bolding mine.)

What I quoted of you, and what I was talking about as well, was about characters.

What you are saying now is out of sync with what you said earlier that I quoted. I agree with what you are saying here. We often have inter-party drama, and as players we check with other players before putting them into play.
GrahamWills is quit consistent across the two posts I've quoted: players don't get to play characters that other players don't like or find annoying.

This doesn't imply or even suggest that there is no inter-character drama. And it was not a remark about PCs. It was a remark about what players are allowed to do - namely, they're not allowed to play PCs that other players don't like or find annoying.
 

Thondor

Explorer
I've nothing against NPCs having input to discussions etc. either as player or DM. That said, the trick as DM is to allow your party NPCs to make mistakes and come up with wrong or dumb suggestions roughly as often as the PCs do, to prevent the players/PCs from always looking to the NPC for the right answer or best idea.
This is critical I think.
For new players, exposing them to NPCs that have a clear personality that makes their advice suspect is important. Such as:
blood-thirsty/reckless, cowardly/cautious, glory-hound, obsequious/servile or indifferent.

Once they sort out that NPCs give bad advice sometimes, going a little more balanced is viable.


I also generally agree that NPCs following the same rules as PCs is a better option. It has more immersion and verisimilitude.
 

How many players does it take to veto a character? If it's just one, you've got a problem: a player could keep vetoing characters until the party lineup was exactly what that player wanted. Add another player doing the same thing but with different tastes/preferences and bang goes that game.

If it takes more than one player to veto a character, where do you draw the line?

Also, how do you handle (or would you even allow?) characters with major things about them that are hidden from the other players/PCs ...

Further question: can a character be player-vetoed after it's already been in the party for a while? If yes, that sounds like another recipe for disaster.

...

My worry with the player-veto system is that it just turns the whole thing into something of a meta-popularity contest ...

Making characters fun for others to enjoy, however, can come down to guesswork even in groups that know each other well (says he, speaking from experience). Sometimes a character seems fine on paper and even in play but for some reason the other players just don't like it (even if their characters do like it). I don't think that's reason enough for the character to get the boot on the meta-level.
A somewhat tangential note here: Politically, I think that for small groups (maybe up to about 12 people) anarchy is the best organization; things are decided by consensus and hard rules should be very rare. If one person is against something, it does depend on how strong their feelings are, but there's no rule. This does have the "popularity problem" but I am fundamentally an optimist and think that, for small groups, people will generally be aware enough to counter this tendency. Yes, it may not work always, but for me, it works better than any other structure. Once past a handful of people, anarchies become harder as they depend on trust and respect, and for groups of size 100, say, you simply cannot know people well enough.

So for gaming, we don't have a gaming contract. We don't have lines we draw. We get together, we talk things out and we come to a resolution. The scenarios you mention -- a player continuously vetoing; as player hiding an aspect of their character that they know will make the game unfunny for others; a player vetoing another after playing a bit -- yes, these would be serious problems. But less procedural problems, than people problems. My thought would not be "what rules can we introduce to fix this?" but rather "why is Chris acting like this and how can we fix the situation so they re OK and so is everyone else".

I realize this might not be terrible helpful and feel very loose, but as the points you bring up indicate, it's hard to come up with solid rules. So we run with no rules, no hierarchy, just an expectation that people will follow Bill and Ted's dictum
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A somewhat tangential note here: Politically, I think that for small groups (maybe up to about 12 people) anarchy is the best organization; things are decided by consensus and hard rules should be very rare. If one person is against something, it does depend on how strong their feelings are, but there's no rule. This does have the "popularity problem" but I am fundamentally an optimist and think that, for small groups, people will generally be aware enough to counter this tendency.
Thing is, I play with some pretty stubborn people who aren't always willing to compromise.
So for gaming, we don't have a gaming contract. We don't have lines we draw. We get together, we talk things out and we come to a resolution. The scenarios you mention -- a player continuously vetoing; as player hiding an aspect of their character that they know will make the game unfunny for others; a player vetoing another after playing a bit -- yes, these would be serious problems. But less procedural problems, than people problems. My thought would not be "what rules can we introduce to fix this?" but rather "why is Chris acting like this and how can we fix the situation so they re OK and so is everyone else".
In our crew, if we had a single-veto system it's be a nightmare; as one or two players in particular often prefer the party all be heroic quasi-Paladinic types while other players often want to be anti-heroes or tricksters and decidedly un-Paladinic.

Hidden character aspects can be a blast, depending what you're hiding and why.
I realize this might not be terrible helpful and feel very loose, but as the points you bring up indicate, it's hard to come up with solid rules. So we run with no rules, no hierarchy, just an expectation that people will follow Bill and Ted's dictum
Bill and Ted? (if that's a movie reference it's lost on me as I've never seen it)
 

Thing is, I play with some pretty stubborn people who aren't always willing to compromise.

...

Bill and Ted? (if that's a movie reference it's lost on me as I've never seen it)

"Be Excellent to One Another" is the reference quote. Although I'm a Christian, I prefer it to the golden rule "do to others as you would have them due to you" as it asks you to go beyond equality. But yes, I'm lucky enough to play with people who are willing to compromise for the fun of all. Not sure what I'd do if that were not the case.
 

Thing is, I play with some pretty stubborn people who aren't always willing to compromise.

In our crew, if we had a single-veto system it's be a nightmare; as one or two players in particular often prefer the party all be heroic quasi-Paladinic types while other players often want to be anti-heroes or tricksters and decidedly un-Paladinic.

Hidden character aspects can be a blast, depending what you're hiding and why.

Bill and Ted? (if that's a movie reference it's lost on me as I've never seen it)
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is a must see movie if you haven't seen it. It was Keanu Reeve's first major role and has held up amazingly well.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't believe in (and am in fact rather hard-line opposed to) the consistency-breaking 4e-5e school of thought that has NPCs and PCs be mechanically different.

<snip>

If your party goes and recruits an NPC Thief then (ideally) that Thief is going to be rolled up just like any other played character.
I also generally agree that NPCs following the same rules as PCs is a better option. It has more immersion and verisimilitude.
Are you two talking about PC build rules, or action resolution rules?

In 4e D&D PCs and NPCs use the same action resolution rules for combat. There are no action resolution rules for NPCs in non-combat, unless they are played as if they were PC participants in a skill challenge.

The build rules obviously are quite different.

But given that build rules are a purely metagame device, I'm not sure how they would affect immersion or verisimilitude?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Are you two talking about PC build rules, or action resolution rules?

In 4e D&D PCs and NPCs use the same action resolution rules for combat. There are no action resolution rules for NPCs in non-combat, unless they are played as if they were PC participants in a skill challenge.

The build rules obviously are quite different.

But given that build rules are a purely metagame device, I'm not sure how they would affect immersion or verisimilitude?
Build rules, at least in my case; and yes it does affect immersion and-or verisimilitude when my PC Thief operates differently* than that NPC Thief over there due to having been "built" differently, even if our class, levels, etc. are the same. Even more so if that NPC Thief over there suddenly becomes my PC Thief because the first one got killed.

On a broader view, the way I see it is that every levelled NPC out there is in theory a PC waiting for a player. That way, when the party goes into town to recruit some new blood nothing changes about the characters they recruit other than they get players attached.

* - doesn't matter whether it's mechanically operating better than me, worse than me, or just different than me - my point is that if the two characters suddenly switched roles and the NPC became my PC while my PC became an NPC absolutely no mechanical changes should need to be made to either one.
 

pemerton

Legend
Build rules, at least in my case; and yes it does affect immersion and-or verisimilitude when my PC Thief operates differently* than that NPC Thief over there due to having been "built" differently, even if our class, levels, etc. are the same.
Are you talking about build rules or action resolution? If the build rules are different - as in 4e - then there is no such thing as class, levels etc are the same because those are features of build rules!

And in 4e a NPC "thief" operates the same as a PC one in combat - s/he has an attack bonus, an AC, skill bonuses etc.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Are you talking about build rules or action resolution? If the build rules are different - as in 4e - then there is no such thing as class, levels etc are the same because those are features of build rules!
Did I not say, as the first two words of the very thing you quoted, "build rules"?

This is because build rules drive and determine everything that follows. If class, levels, etc. cannot be the same then...
And in 4e a NPC "thief" operates the same as a PC one in combat - s/he has an attack bonus, an AC, skill bonuses etc.
...it only follows that none of this can be the same either. The question isn't whether or not the NPC Thief has an attack bonus, it's whether the NPC's attack bonus is the same as that of my PC Thief assuming all other things (e.g. level, stats, magic) are equal.

The easiest way to make sure all these things are the same is to build the characters the same to start with.

If you've got an NPC Thief in a 4e party - let's say lowish level for simplicity - and you turn it over to me as a PC because my original PC died and there's no way to get anything new in, how many things about it will mechanically change? Do I-as-player have to go back and rebuild it from scratch?
 

Thondor

Explorer
Are you two talking about PC build rules, or action resolution rules?

In 4e D&D PCs and NPCs use the same action resolution rules for combat. There are no action resolution rules for NPCs in non-combat, unless they are played as if they were PC participants in a skill challenge.

The build rules obviously are quite different.

But given that build rules are a purely metagame device, I'm not sure how they would affect immersion or verisimilitude?
Both are relevant. If action resolution is identical - more immersion/verisimilitude than if not. If build rules are also the same then even more verisimilitude/immersion.
It is also a question of what your rules are meant to represent. The base assumption in the discussion thus far is "adventuring people in a D&D style game" -- why should someone who is just like the PCs operate differently mechanically then said PCs? If they do use different mechanics, then there is an unnecessary breaking of the world into artificial segments.

I am ok with games that do things differently if they have different base assumptions, if your game is trying to simulate the narrative of a TV show, then go ahead and have separate mechanics for the "stars of the show" and the bit characters.

One of the reasons I find Dungeon World really jarring is that it doesn't seem to have a different assumption like above but has different resolution mechanics for enemies and PCs. i.e. Mechanically an Orc doesn't really attack a PC (no one rolls for the orc) the PCs can only fail to avoid getting damaged by the Orc.
What happens if the PCs capture the Orc and convince it to fight for them? Damned if I know.
 

Both are relevant. If action resolution is identical - more immersion/verisimilitude than if not. If build rules are also the same then even more verisimilitude/immersion.

The problem with this is that this requires a player to be able to see those differences from where he sits. Since usually the differences were simplifications or narrowings of similar PC rules, they normally weren't. I'd argue that the majority of 4e NPC types that looked like PC types in general would be difficult or impossible to tell from a purely player facing position in play weren't built the same way; you'd just notice, at most, that some tricks you might have with a similar character they never used.

I'll go as far as to say that with most of them, it interferring with immersion would require you to both know the difference from some non-in-play source, and to be allowing such metagame knowledge to color your views. You're certainly not doing it from any purely IC cues.
 

I'm fine with them. I don't know what else to say (?)

Earlier in the thread, some have commented that NPCs can be used to fulfill roles (i.e. pilot, medic) which the PCs do not cover. Likewise, hirelings, mercenaries, and retainers are fine by me. None of these things bother me as a player; in fact, I would say that I lean toward playstyles which embrace such concepts.
(Related note: some of my biggest issues with D&D 3.5 stem from realizing that the leadership feat granted me a bunch of followers who were largely worthless against anything of appropriate CR. It lead to weird playstyles in which followers were used to craft and support the PCs more like a modern SF team, rather than feeling like fantasy. Later editions have been better-ish, but sometimes it causes "problems" in D&D and systems with the typical linear progression and encounter building.)

Sometimes (as others have mentioned) "GMPCs" can be an issue. But I think that is something else from the topic at hand. I think there are ways for a GM to run characters without hogging the spotlight or taking away from the game, but it requires keeping character knowledge and GM knowledge separate. It's one of the reasons I am against fudging. In that case, it's the same as the GM handling any other character in the game world; this one simply happens to be an ally.
 

Thondor

Explorer
The problem with this is that this requires a player to be able to see those differences from where he sits. Since usually the differences were simplifications or narrowings of similar PC rules, they normally weren't. I'd argue that the majority of 4e NPC types that looked like PC types in general would be difficult or impossible to tell from a purely player facing position in play weren't built the same way; you'd just notice, at most, that some tricks you might have with a similar character they never used.

I'll go as far as to say that with most of them, it interferring with immersion would require you to both know the difference from some non-in-play source, and to be allowing such metagame knowledge to color your views. You're certainly not doing it from any purely IC cues.
This depends largely on your goals -- and how complex a system you are running to begin with. Yeah you don't need to know exactly how Kratos the indomitable got a +10 to attack, but if you say he is a level 5 fighter, you should have an idea of how he could get there.

@Lanefan has made the point repeatedly that if for some reason you need to hand control of an NPC to a character, that character should look like a PC in terms of how they were built. I agree that this is the ideal situation, and this should be something you can do without a lot of hassle.
 

pemerton

Legend
It is also a question of what your rules are meant to represent. The base assumption in the discussion thus far is "adventuring people in a D&D style game" -- why should someone who is just like the PCs operate differently mechanically then said PCs? If they do use different mechanics, then there is an unnecessary breaking of the world into artificial segments.

<snip>

One of the reasons I find Dungeon World really jarring is that it doesn't seem to have a different assumption like above but has different resolution mechanics for enemies and PCs. i.e. Mechanically an Orc doesn't really attack a PC (no one rolls for the orc) the PCs can only fail to avoid getting damaged by the Orc.
What happens if the PCs capture the Orc and convince it to fight for them? Damned if I know.
I don't know Dungeon World all that well, but I assume that a captured Orc fighting with the PCs would be similar to a gang in Apocalypse World.

Yeah you don't need to know exactly how Kratos the indomitable got a +10 to attack, but if you say he is a level 5 fighter, you should have an idea of how he could get there.
build rules drive and determine everything that follows. If class, levels, etc. cannot be the same then...

...it only follows that none of this can be the same either. The question isn't whether or not the NPC Thief has an attack bonus, it's whether the NPC's attack bonus is the same as that of my PC Thief assuming all other things (e.g. level, stats, magic) are equal.
"Level" and "class" are purely metagame devices. They are components of a set of rules for building player characters.

In a system that uses a different metagame device to build NPCs, it doesn't make sense to ask what their class or level are, any more than it makes sense to ask what the "class" of an AD&D wyvern is. (The only version of D&D to use "classes" for all GM-controlled personae is 3E.)

If you've got an NPC Thief in a 4e party - let's say lowish level for simplicity - and you turn it over to me as a PC because my original PC died and there's no way to get anything new in, how many things about it will mechanically change? Do I-as-player have to go back and rebuild it from scratch?
if for some reason you need to hand control of an NPC to a character, that character should look like a PC in terms of how they were built. I agree that this is the ideal situation, and this should be something you can do without a lot of hassle.
In AD&D it can easily happen that a being under the GM's control - eg a horse or mule or ogre or gelatinous cube - can move to player control (via capture or taming or a Charm spell or sundry other means). But in AD&D very few beings under the GM's control are created using mechanical build rules that emulate the player character build rules. Even when it comes to a being of a PC-eligible race, they do not need to have a class and level (see eg the Dwarf, Elf, Men etc entries in the Monster Manual) and even if the GM does choose to build them in that fashion s/he is allowed to stipulate ability scores without having regard to the rules that govern PC build (see eg Gygax's DMG p 11: "You should, of course, set the ability scores of
those NPCs you will use as parts of the milieu, particularly those of high level and power. Scores for high level NPC's must be high - how else could these figures have risen so high?").

Here are the rules from Classic Traveller (from Book 1, p 8 and Book 3, p 22, 1977 edition) for when the players have their PCs hire a NPC:

Sometimes (often) players will encounter people not manipulated by an actual player. They may be thugs or assailants. They may be potential hirelings or employers. In any case, their skills and abilities should be determined using the character generation procedure, and noted for the effects they may have on play.

For example, a starship captain may be looking for a crew for his ship, in which case, the referee would generate characters until one occurs with the required skill (such as navigation, medical, etc.). Generally, the first appropriate character to be generated would present himself for employment, and if not accepted or considered suitable, an appropriate delay would occur before another presents himself. As an alternative, the referee might simply generate a character and assign him the required skill, plus perhaps 1 or 2 more.

When travellers require employees, for any purpose, they must find them in the course of their activities. This may require advertising, visiting union hiring halls, or active efforts in barrooms or clubs. Hiring is done by stating a requirement to the referee, who indicates persons presenting themselves for employment. The interview consists of generating the person's characteristics and experience.
These rules contemplate that NPCs may be generated using the PC-build rules, or may just be created by referee stipulation.

RuneQuest is a well-known FRPG which was one of the first to use the same mechanical framework for specifying all beings in the game system, so that they all feed into action resolution in the same way. But it does not require that all beings under the GM's control be generated using the PC build framework.

Personally I don't regard it as a very important desideratum of a RPG that a GM-controlled entity should be easily amenable to slotting into the player-side features of the game such as (eg) balanced character building, clear process for character advancement, etc. As I said the only version of D&D to attempt this is 3E, and it generated a lot of complexity (eg ECL rules) and weaknesses in design (eg undead with too few hit points because of their lack of a CON score).
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top