• 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)

In no way does that tell you his level. It tells you his fighting capability. Level does not exist in the game world.
The character may lack the concept of level, but that's also not axiomatic.

See, the combat capabilities are linked directly to level.
In some games, most notably AD&D 1E, but it's not alone, until one has both the experience and the training, one does not level up. Given that the training cannot be taken until one is in the level prior to the one trained for, clearly level is accessible in game world to some degree... "I feel it is time I learn the Fourth Secret of the School of Defense" is equivalent to "I need to learn to be a 4th level fighter." "What belt have you earned?" is a modern real world equivalent.

As is "What Rating do you hold" in the US Navy... and isn't actually tied directly to rank. I know that if I see a guy with a wrench and propeller and a single chevron, he's passed the standards to establish that he can do a certain range of aviation frame and skin repairs, and system installs/uninstalls/swaps. He may hold a higher rating than his insignia correspond do - asking him his rating will reveal that. (A buddy of mine was rated as a AKC, but only held the rank of PO2, so his worn badge was AK2. Yes, I've seen his DD214 and seen the AKC rating. My Grandfather was rated an SN1 during WW2, but didn't have the time nor boards to be promoted to PO1, so he wore SN2 until he outprocessed.

The concept of levels isn't something that exists only as a metagame; it exists in many administrative systems.
For yet another, more concrete, example. An apprentice electrician is a fetch and tote, and follow directions as given. A journeyman is able to work with indirect supervision. A master electrician is capable of unsupervised work, and of supervising apprentices. In those unions that still have them, a grand master electrician is one who scrutinizes the journeymen for admission to the ranks of master electricians.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Eh, I try to avoid them in all honesty. If an NPC joins the party, it's usually only for one or two scenes: just long enough to guide them to the entrance of the dungeon, deliver an important message, or whatever. They're usually gone by the end of the gaming session.

I have a longstanding rule regarding mercenaries, bodyguards, scouts, and other NPC hirelings: If your character decides to hire someone to join the party, I'll hand you the hireling's character sheet. They are now your responsibility to run for the duration of their employment: you will play them as your own character, and their share of any treasure/XP (or funeral costs!) will all come out of their employer's share unless the group unanimously agrees otherwise.

So we don't get a lot of hirelings at my table.
 


I am all for hirelings and henchmen that don’t dominate the encounter and take the spotlight from the PC’s.

That’s so weird. I’m the exact opposite.

The moment the players in my game start to use their PCs to cut in on my “exposition dump” or “find the plot” NPC time, I either go asymmetric warfare and start getting really passive aggressive or ill just go with the nuclear option, reach across the table and smack the protagonism right out of their ungrateful faces. The nerve of these guys.

I should probably post more about this in some of the GMing threads as these techniques can really help tables that are struggling to figure out the balance.
 

Campbell

Legend
My answer is anarchy.

Only half kidding here. In general I'm not super fond of the concept of "the party" or deciding who gets to belong to it. I like games that treat players' characters as individual protagonists where who can be allies and enemies of each other is more conditional. That being said I view the PCs as the main characters so their interests and objectives should be the focus of play. Like if the game were a TV show they would be on the marquee. Not necessarily the most powerful, but the most important (in terms of focus).

Also NPCs are characters with their own desires and objectives. I never really place them in the hands of the other players unless there are special rules for that stuff built in.
 
Last edited:

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
This thread isn't about NPCs generally, but about NPC party members specifcally. So think a DM run party character in a 5E game.
 

pemerton

Legend
This thread isn't about NPCs generally, but about NPC party members specifcally. So think a DM run party character in a 5E game.
But it is in General, not D&D. So @Campbell's reply is apposite.

In general I'm not super fond of the concept of "the party" or deciding who gets to belong to it. I like games that treat players' characters as individual protagonists where who can be allies and enemies of each other is more conditional.

<snip>

Also NPCs are characters with their own desires and objectives. I never really place them in the hands of the other players unless there are special rules for that stuff built in.
My games have more "party" dynamic than I suspect you would enjoy. (Or at least more than you would prefer.)

In our Traveller game, for instance, the "party" is the ship's owner, crew and hangers-on. The owner pays salary to the crew; the hangers-on pay for their travel. These characters are of three main types: PCs in the fullest sense; semi-PCs in the sense that they belong primarily to a player rather than the GM, but are not main characters; and NPCs who are still associated with a player position but over whom I can easily assert control for GM purposes.

Separate from all these are NPCs who are not associated with the ship. Though these characters bleed fairly easily into the third of the above three categories! We haven't yet had bleed the other way, though in-principle it would be entirely permissible.
 


Campbell

Legend
Within the context of adventure gaming (which should not necessarily be the default context for all play discussions) or other games where players are part of some formal organized group I am of the mind that players fundamentally have a right to decide what their posture their characters take towards any given NPC (enemy, ally, or otherwise). That might include travelling with them and fighting side by side. Regardless the NPC should not be used as a mouthpiece or plot device. They should be a character with their own agenda and desires. They should also not be the focus of play. The important decisions still need to be in the players' hands (in my opinion).

My previous reply was mostly that ideally there would be no mandated party structure for NPCs to belong to or not.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
So when someone says "party NPC" what that normally means is a member of the party, just run by the GM, not a player. That assumes that the GM is going, to some extent, 'play that character' set next to the PCs characters. I think the key issue here is the extent to which that's even possible in good faith in many system. In a case where the GM knows what's going to happen if X, it's going to affect his decision to have the NPC do X. The temptation is there to find a clue the players missed, to notice something the players didn't, in other words to keep the game chugging in the direction the GM wants it to.

Obviously, not every party NPC does the above, but I think the reason that this is a topic is that a lot of them do.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I try very hard not to have any NPCs in the party. Not so much because I don't trust myself to be as impartial as possible, but rather because it's just one more thing I have to keep track of and I'm already tracking a lot. I tend to forget to have the NPCs do stuff and I don't like when that happens. If an NPC ever ends up in the party, it's because the players have arranged it so that one is there.
 

Campbell

Legend
So when someone says "party NPC" what that normally means is a member of the party, just run by the GM, not a player. That assumes that the GM is going, to some extent, 'play that character' set next to the PCs characters. I think the key issue here is the extent to which that's even possible in good faith in many system. In a case where the GM knows what's going to happen if X, it's going to affect his decision to have the NPC do X. The temptation is there to find a clue the players missed, to notice something the players didn't, in other words to keep the game chugging in the direction the GM wants it to.

Obviously, not every party NPC does the above, but I think the reason that this is a topic is that a lot of them do.

My perspective is that the GM knowing what will happen if x is the fundamental issue in such a scenario. It belies a posture towards play I would rather not see personally. The idea of an assumed trajectory to play - that there is some direction it should go in and it is up to players figure out that preordained direction is not something I'm personally up for.

I think as a GM I would prefer your posture to be one of curiosity. To wander what happen if x instead of setting it in stone. To really consider things in the moment. That's why it is so important to me personally that GMs not predecide what any particular NPC's role will be moving forward and just try to present them as people as best as they are able to.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
NEVER!!!

No DMPCs, no GMPCs, no NPCs that are members of "the party" the PCs belong to, no NPCs that "adventure" alongside the PCs.

PCs are meant to be the movie stars and rock gods. The PCs are the main characters of the movie or TV show or novel or story. The PCs are unique in that regard. They may not be protagonists, or heroes, or even all that special, but they are the headliners. The emergent narrative focuses on their deeds.

NPCs are the extras, they operate as secondary characters at best. Ultimately they are not important. They may change over time, and may even feature prominently in the narrative for a time, but the story is not about them, it's about what the PCs are doing.

I refuse to participate in games where the GM has their own PCs. The GM does not need a PC, they have dozens or hundreds or even thousands of NPCs to run, they do not need their own PCs!

Players get a PC. Players focus on running their PC. GMs get oodles of NPCs to focus on, in addition to running "the world" the PCs engage in during their exploits. GMs that want to run their own PC should not GM and instead be a Player and play in a game with a different person as the GM. IMHO anyway.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So when someone says "party NPC" what that normally means is a member of the party, just run by the GM, not a player. That assumes that the GM is going, to some extent, 'play that character' set next to the PCs characters. I think the key issue here is the extent to which that's even possible in good faith in many system. In a case where the GM knows what's going to happen if X, it's going to affect his decision to have the NPC do X. The temptation is there to find a clue the players missed, to notice something the players didn't, in other words to keep the game chugging in the direction the GM wants it to.
Which is where dice come in: does the NPC by random chance happen to think of something useful...or, does she steer the party completely wrong, or does she just not have a clue.

It also depends on the NPC in question. Some specifically are there as plot devices and-or with their own agendae (e.g. spies, double agents, guides-who-aren't-really-guides, etc.). Others are there as friends/associates of the PCs; still others are there as employees of the PCs, i.e. henches or hirelings.
 

NEVER!!!

No DMPCs, no GMPCs, no NPCs that are members of "the party" the PCs belong to, no NPCs that "adventure" alongside the PCs.

PCs are meant to be the movie stars and rock gods. The PCs are the main characters of the movie or TV show or novel or story. The PCs are unique in that regard. They may not be protagonists, or heroes, or even all that special, but they are the headliners. The emergent narrative focuses on their deeds.

NPCs are the extras, they operate as secondary characters at best. Ultimately they are not important. They may change over time, and may even feature prominently in the narrative for a time, but the story is not about them, it's about what the PCs are doing.

I refuse to participate in games where the GM has their own PCs. The GM does not need a PC, they have dozens or hundreds or even thousands of NPCs to run, they do not need their own PCs!

Players get a PC. Players focus on running their PC. GMs get oodles of NPCs to focus on, in addition to running "the world" the PCs engage in during their exploits. GMs that want to run their own PC should not GM and instead be a Player and play in a game with a different person as the GM. IMHO anyway.

There are games where Cohorts/Hirelings/Companions are “PC Assets” (under player control) and not the sort of dysfunctional GMPC you’re envisioning.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
NEVER!!!

No DMPCs, no GMPCs, no NPCs that are members of "the party" the PCs belong to, no NPCs that "adventure" alongside the PCs.
Good thing we don't play in the same game, then; as my second* go-to option if the party is lacking something is to simply recruit an adventuring NPC to join us and fill that gap.

* - my first go-to option is for someone to roll up another PC to fill the gap and play two at once, but it seems many people frown on that sort of thing these days...
Players get a PC. Players focus on running their PC. GMs get oodles of NPCs to focus on, in addition to running "the world" the PCs engage in during their exploits. GMs that want to run their own PC should not GM and instead be a Player and play in a game with a different person as the GM. IMHO anyway.
This assumes - not always correctly - that one is in a situation where such can easily be done.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
There are games where Cohorts/Hirelings/Companions are “PC Assets” (under player control) and not the sort of dysfunctional GMPC you’re envisioning.
Never said their wasn't games that operate different than mine, that's a good thing as people like different things, like sushi, many people like it, I won't touch the stuff.

I often have PCs hire NPCs to perform tasks for them. However, the things these NPCs do either happens "off screen" or "in the background" of a scene. Even when those NPCs are involved in combat, they die spectacularly as part of the description of what is happening around the PCs, without any mechanical engagement.
 

pemerton

Legend
In a case where the GM knows what's going to happen if X, it's going to affect his decision to have the NPC do X. The temptation is there to find a clue the players missed, to notice something the players didn't, in other words to keep the game chugging in the direction the GM wants it to.
My perspective is that the GM knowing what will happen if x is the fundamental issue in such a scenario. It belies a posture towards play I would rather not see personally. The idea of an assumed trajectory to play - that there is some direction it should go in and it is up to players figure out that preordained direction is not something I'm personally up for.
It's almost as if there is quite a bit of play where an important element of play is the players learning the GM's conception of the fiction!
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
Good thing we don't play in the same game, then; as my second* go-to option if the party is lacking something is to simply recruit an adventuring NPC to join us and fill that gap.
I just run games where the party couldn't lack something because their are no specific niches the PCs need to fill. I also allow the party to completely lack certain skills. If the party doesn't have any members that can pick locks, then they aren't going to enter the castle by picking the lock on the gate, they will have to find a different way in.
* - my first go-to option is for someone to roll up another PC to fill the gap and play two at once, but it seems many people frown on that sort of thing these days...

This assumes - not always correctly - that one is in a situation where such can easily be done.
Everyone does it their own way. I have just never seen it done well. One side of the screen or the other, not both, it never works, or at least I have never seen it work well.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I just run games where the party couldn't lack something because their are no specific niches the PCs need to fill. I also allow the party to completely lack certain skills. If the party doesn't have any members that can pick locks, then they aren't going to enter the castle by picking the lock on the gate, they will have to find a different way in.
In character, it only makes sense to have a well-rounded skill set in the party. A lockpicker-trapfinder-scout is an obvious skillset any party is going to need - or will soon enough realize it needs after any time in the field; and so if it looks like we're about to set off without such a person then dammit, I'm going to go and recruit one.

Same if on preparing to leave it becomes obvious that a party I'm in doesn't have a front line, I'm going to go and recruit a warrior or two to join us; be it as henches or as full party members...even more so if we've already tried the no-fighter approach before and got our butts kicked.

This allows players to play what they want to play, e.g. if everyone wants to play mages or rogues or other backline types they can, and not be or feel forced to play something just because we need it; while still putting a more complete party into the field.

Also, what do you do when running a module that for whatever reason gives the party an NPC adventurer, be it as a rescued prisoner, a plot device, a spy, or whatever? I-3 Pharaoh's Tomb expects the party to find and take in (two? three? I forget how many) adventuring NPCs during the course of the adventure as they explore their way through the pyramid. WGA-4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun expects the party to rescue and take in an NPC adventurer who very much has his own agenda. This sort of thing is common.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top