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General The "DM's PC"

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
My group has done it, but I have kind of mixed feelings about the results. At least one of these DM PCs has become a memorable character that we all still talk about, and our DMs have been very good about making sure these characters don't overshadow the PCs. But I feel like it throws the tone of play off in a subtle way that I can't quite put my finger on.
 

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Yes, I'm sure. And frankly, if people don't voice that they have a problem about something, as far as I am concerned, they don't. It isn't my job or responsibility otherwise. But anyway...

Why would it be? When I am controlling my PC I am just another player. When I am running all the other aspects of the game, I am the DM. Divorcing the two has never been a problem for me.

So, again, why would it be? :)
Maybe, maybe not. I can't speak to you specifically.

My experience is a lot DMs think they are doing things better than they actually are. They are egocentric and feel that what they feel is right must be right, and anyone who disagrees, or does not voice their opinion, screw them. So, in other words, I've encountered lots of DMs who say that they are great, that what they do works for their group, but they do so in way that is ignorant of any perspective but their own.

Again, I have no idea or comment on your or your group specifically. But I will ask you, have you ever seen another DM run a game in a way that that person thinks works but you could see was not working they way that DM thought it was?
 

Never run a DMPC.

Unless for comedy purposes. Its the only time I've ever seen it work.

Youre the DM and not one of the protagonists.

If your DMPC ever does anything useful it takes the spotlight away from tbe players, and in far too many cases is just a DM self insert into the game.
 

Unless I have a good-sized group of players (at least 5), I almost always end up having a PC for myself when I DM. It has never been an issue. shrug
Same. I rarely have a party large enough to sustain itself in my campaigns, so I often add one or two DMPCs to the campaign. The players always seem to like them and have often grown attached to them. I don't make them steal the spotlight, and they have never been a problem.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
My group has done it, but I have kind of mixed feelings about the results. At least one of these DM PCs has become a memorable character that we all still talk about, and our DMs have been very good about making sure these characters don't overshadow the PCs. But I feel like it throws the tone of play off in a subtle way that I can't quite put my finger on.

Exactly. In my mind, the following scenarios will come up:

A. The DM NPC is just ego-tripping and wish fulfillment, and the DM doesn't care.

B. The DM NPC is ego-tripping and wish fulfillment, but the DM doesn't notice (because it's Lake Wobegon, and every DM is above average and handles everything perfectly).

C. The DM NPC is done well, and yet it still feels off.

The last is what I worry about; it's hard to put your finger on, but it exists. It's like you have a championship soccer (futbol) match, and one team is short a player, so the referee plays for one side while also calling the fouls; sure, maybe he does a great job of being as impartial as possible, but it feels wrong. It throws off the delicate balance between the "DM/referee as adjudicator" and "DM as participant."

But yes, it's almost never done well, and even when it is done well, it still doesn't sit right.
 

Never run a DMPC.

Unless for comedy purposes. Its the only time I've ever seen it work.

Youre the DM and not one of the protagonists.

If your DMPC ever does anything useful it takes the spotlight away from tbe players, and in far too many cases is just a DM self insert into the game.
I respectfully disagree. In some parties, a DMPC can help fill a role that wasn't chosen by a character. I normally choose simple classes (rogues, monks, etc) to fill this role. I have never used a DMPC for comedy reasons.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
But I will ask you, have you ever seen another DM run a game in a way that that person thinks works but you could see was not working they way that DM thought it was?
No, frankly no, simply because (for myself) the DM runs the game as they see fit, especially during the session, and I as a player will never know what is supposed to be working or how.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
There are times when I'll have an NPC join the party either because it makes sense from a story perspective or because we're short a critical PC.

How I handle it just depends. Most of the time I'll have someone else run the PC in combat, although I have veto/override control at all times. RP and out of combat decisions are my responsibility. Occasionally I'll run the NPC myself, but TBH I'm lazy and have enough to keep track of the way it is. However, there are times when I'll do it because I don't want to reveal details about the PC.

There are also times when the NPC is there but I just have them split off and do off-screen fights when combat starts, especially if it's not a support class. So the NPC will see a small group trying to flank the PCs and go take care of them, their fight miraculously ends at the same time as the PC's combat.
 

EscherEnigma

Explorer
I respectfully disagree. In some parties, a DMPC can help fill a role that wasn't chosen by a character. I normally choose simple classes (rogues, monks, etc) to fill this role. I have never used a DMPC for comedy reasons.
For large enough parties (three or more) I'll let the players find a way to shore up their weaknesses. I haven't been let-down yet.

For smaller parties I think the sidekick rules work well here. Keeps it relatively simple, and you can just hand it off to one of your two players to run the NPC in combat.
 

It's been years since I have played a "DM's NPC". Now I take a monster stat bloc, say Priest. Put a name on it (Paulus). And the players play Paulus the priest one after the other for the time that Paulus will be with them. They play Paulus collectively.

NPC should never take the spot light from the players. Playing them is too tempting for a DMs to actively play with the players. I want to stay neutral. And if the NPC is supposed to back stab the players, it will. I can always give a false NPC sheet if needed.
 

NPCs in my campaign are strictly in the background as plot devices for flavor, random or encounters. If one accompanies the party it is only for a short time, but they are never party members. I ran a Co-op DM campaign once and the player that started and DM'd previously wanted to run his Uber NPC as a PC and I said "NO!" because I saw the problems coming a mile away.
 

Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
I never DMPC a character. My party frequently has NPCs in the mix. My campaigns often feature organic recruiting of various NPCs. Usually these are NPCs who share a motivation with the party. When that motivation is satisfied, many times these NPCs go their own way.

Sometimes an NPC will join up for an extended period of time. They may level up and obtain shares of treasure from the party. But, as the GM, I don't maintain any attachment or personal stake in these NPCs. And I decide their actions based on their motivation, and not according to the social contract that governs PCs.
 

No, frankly no, simply because (for myself) the DM runs the game as they see fit, especially during the session, and I as a player will never know what is supposed to be working or how.
That's not really answering my poorly asked question and totally missing my point. But makes your view of the game table perfectly clear. Glad it works for you. Way too narrow minded for my tastes.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Unless I have a good-sized group of players (at least 5), I almost always end up having a PC for myself when I DM. It has never been an issue. shrug
My main gaming partner for the last two years has been my now-almost-7yo. I added a DMPC to the campaign about a year and a half ago at the kid's insistence; they were not happy just being the only hero character.

It's worked out fine.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
For smaller groups of players I've throw in a missing support NPC (the cleric who stands at the back). I'll sometimes let a player control them in a combat, but mostly they're ignored until needed.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We've had full-party-member NPCs since forever and rarely if ever has it been a problem. They come about in one or more of several ways:

--- Someone's hench graduates to full-member status (henches are uncommon but not unheard of)
--- The party realize they're lacking some skills and recruit NPCs to fill those holes (this is the most common party-NPC generator)
--- The adventure gives the party an NPC as part of its story e.g. a rescuee with adventuring skills, and that NPC fits in well enough to stick around after that adventure's done (also fairly common)
--- The NPC is a long-term DM plot device, or a double agent, or a spy, or will eventually reveal itself at some key moment to be part of the opposition (rare, but it's been done; most often the PCs cop to the NPC's real motives early enough to avoid any real headaches)
--- the PCs meet and merge with another adventuring group, each seeking strength in numbers at the time (rare, but it's happened a few times)
--- the party take in tolerable members of a rival adventuring group they just defeated (surprisingly common)

The players do the dice-rolling for the party NPCs, track their hit points etc., and usually determine what they do in combat (though the DM can always veto); the DM does their role-playing, treasury claiming (just like any other party member), and so forth.

I usually try to keep party NPCs at or near the level of the PCs; sometimes below, rarely if ever above unless it's something dropped in my lap by a published module. The one subtle difference is that often party NPCs will come and go from the party more often than PCs will, which tends to slow down their advancement. I also rarely if ever get attached to these NPCs; they have a normal sense of self-preservation but if they die, they die, and I don't lose sleep over it (edit to add - though sometimes the players/PCs will go to great lengths to revive a fallen party-NPC, treating it just as they would a PC party member; which makes sense given that in the fiction there's no 'PC' or 'NPC' labels stuck to the characters' foreheads).

That said, party NPCs have personality and will interact with the PCs based on that: rivalries with PCs, romances with PCs, friendships with PCs, etc. are all in play and - I hope - add to the entertainment.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
That's not really answering my poorly asked question and totally missing my point. But makes your view of the game table perfectly clear. Glad it works for you. Way too narrow minded for my tastes.
Actually, it answered your question but I knew what you were trying to do. Sorry that my answer didn't play into your plans. ;)

So, as I said before, when I DM and play a PC, there are no problems. :D I can easily separate the two roles in the game.
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
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Yeah, as a general rule, I am against DM PC's. Rarely are they done in a way that the PCs don't hate them.
 

FrozenNorth

Adventurer
As a general rule, I do not like DM NPCs. It almost never goes well.

I have two exceptions that I have used in the past.

1. The deus ex machina. In a few campaigns, I have included a "DM NPC" that was a specific plot point that would accompany the adventurers in order to accomplish a specific goal.

2. The "retired PC." When PCs get super powerful, they can be retired and become setting NPCs; when they are encountered again, they are "DM NPCs" and can be interacted with on a limited basis.
I don’t use DM NPCs in either of the cases described, but I have a third situation where I will use a DM NOC.

3. The party is too small to do the adventure on its own (less than 4 players) AND the players are too inexperienced to run 2 PCs.

Even in that case, the NPC should participate the least possible, and classes that have a lot of social/utility abilities should be avoided (bards, rogues, wizards).
 

aco175

Legend
I have been using a DMNPC in 5e mostly since the number of players is small. The core group has been together for years and I feel that it goes fine. Maybe since I tend to play with my father and brother, and now my son.
 

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