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General The "DM's PC"

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
my statement has nothing to do with in game and everything to do with out of game.
For stuff like this, I only care about in-game.

A PC is treated differently than every other NPC in the world by other PCs due to the social contract.
Out of game perhaps, but in game they're all members of the same party and would - one assumes - more or less treat each other as equals.

A party deciding they don’t want an NPC around is far different than a party deciding they want a PC to leave.
It is only if asking the PC to leave is accompanied by asking the player to leave. Further, I'm not talking about characters being forced out of a party (which to me is a different issue) but leaving voluntarily to go do something else.

The mere fact that a PC is going to be accepted, trusted and supported simply for being a PC is the biggest difference between an NPC and PC. And A GM should not cross that line to have a character I see their control that gas the sane agency as the other PCs.
Accepting, trusting and supporting PCs just because they're PCs has led to some of the best in-party fights and double-crosses I've ever seen.

Not every PC is trustworthy, and there's no requirement that they be. It's on the party to sort out who they can trust and who not, which is reflective of how things would work in reality.
 

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jmartkdr2

Adventurer
Why didn't the GM get the players to run the NPCs' turns?

The simple rule of thumb I use, probably 99%+ of the time, is that if it's on the party's side then the players do its rolling and if it's on the opposition side then I roll for it. The rare exceptions occur when something that appears to be on one side is in fact acting for the other; in which case who rolls is based on the side the PCs think the individual is on at the time.
I've gone one further and played where each player had two pc's. It works fairly well, although "find a fourth player" is usually a better option.

It's probably also worth pointing out that which edition you're running can have a huge impact on how important 'party roles' are - in 5e you really don't need to think about them at all, for instance.
 

Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
For stuff like this, I only care about in-game.

Out of game perhaps, but in game they're all members of the same party and would - one assumes - more or less treat each other as equals.

It is only if asking the PC to leave is accompanied by asking the player to leave. Further, I'm not talking about characters being forced out of a party (which to me is a different issue) but leaving voluntarily to go do something else.

Accepting, trusting and supporting PCs just because they're PCs has led to some of the best in-party fights and double-crosses I've ever seen.

Not every PC is trustworthy, and there's no requirement that they be. It's on the party to sort out who they can trust and who not, which is reflective of how things would work in reality.

so your position is in most D&D games there’s absolutely no difference between PCs and NPCs?
 

Benjamin Olson

Adventurer
I currently have a DM PC. It sucks. Don't do this.

I've had party NPC's verging on DM PC's before for small groups, but I've always gone for a mechanically super simple option with a deferential personality who doesn't require brainpower to operate or step on the agency of players. A straightforward Rogue, Fighter, or Barbarian, whom I can make the players operate during combat and who just waits for the players cues in most other situations is fine. If the DM then also sometimes plays that NPC like their own character that can work just fine. Feel free to do this, just use caution.

However, I'm currently DMing a campaign that is a continuation of another campaign I played in, during which a vital macguffin was magically bonded to my character, and said macguffin is needed for the current campaign as well. Removing it from the character requires either killing him or retconning the inseparability of the item, which is disrespectful to the prior campaign's story and at this point doesn't explain why, now that they are once again on a dangerous quest, my character would abandon his friends.

He is a mechanically complicated Wizard-Rogue multiclass who is really just a whole additional layer of additional mechanical crap I have to juggle during any encounter. Whereas a mechanically simple character can be thrown to the players, none of them want the burden of managing this guy. I mostly relegate him to the background which really doesn't fit his character as it existed prior. His presence was justified game-balance-wise when he entered into the current quest rounding out a party with 3 PCs, but then two more players joined and if anything he just makes the party overpowered now. The only part of it all that really works is that he has expertise in Arcana, so he's a great mouthpiece for DM exposition dumps.

I guess if I felt comfortable spending player character spotlight time on my own personal character or telling the group what to do then this would just be a problem of juggling an additional mechanically complicated piece in combat. But I really don't think a DM's character should be taking an active role in group decisions (since the DM knows the actual likely consequences of those decisions) nor should they be in the spotlight unless the players push their character there on some particular occasion. So I'm not really getting to have much of the fun of roleplaying a character, just the mental burden of keeping one more plate spinning the whole time. Hopefully I'll find a way to get rid of him that I'm happy with sooner rather than later.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I've gone one further and played where each player had two pc's. It works fairly well, although "find a fourth player" is usually a better option.
2 PCs at a time is standard here particularly at low levels where one (or both) could die at any minute. With four players our average party size is 6-10, running modifed 1e.

It's probably also worth pointing out that which edition you're running can have a huge impact on how important 'party roles' are - in 5e you really don't need to think about them at all, for instance.
Interesting - I was under the impression 5e had brought back a bit of niche protection. If differentiation between the classes is really that small, why bother with classes at all?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
so your position is in most D&D games there’s absolutely no difference between PCs and NPCs?
Ideally, yes. The characters are all equally inhabitant in the fictional world and as far as possible I want their mechanics and interactions to reflect that, with the specific intention that unless you somehow know who is playing who (e.g. by looking at game logs or sitting at the table) you can't tell the difference.

For example, take two characters from my current Sunday night game:

Gretta - 8th-level Fighter, Part-Orc, female, N-aligned, specialized in longsword, currently on her third adventure in this game.
Vantos - 8th-level Cleric, Human, male, LG-aligned, deity is a variant on Apollo, currently on his seventh adventure in this game.

Over the last while these two have become the heart and soul of their current party. They're also both stinkin' rich, having come through a couple of very lucrative adventures without too much mishap.

Without looking at my online game records, are they both PCs; or is just one (and if so, which one); or is neither?
 

jmartkdr2

Adventurer
2 PCs at a time is standard here particularly at low levels where one (or both) could die at any minute. With four players our average party size is 6-10, running modifed 1e.

Interesting - I was under the impression 5e had brought back a bit of niche protection. If differentiation between the classes is really that small, why bother with classes at all?
It's not that classes play the same - it's that there's nothing essential that a pc can't try to do. Anyone can attempt to pick locks - but a rogue who specializes in that will do it a lot better. So a party without a rogue isn't stuck when they reach a locked door.

Or, more meaningfully: you don't need magical healing. You have a decent-sized pool of self-healing available. Magical healing is helpful but not essential. Ergo, a party for four fighters can complete any adventure. The details wpould look different, but it's possible
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
For example, take two characters from my current Sunday night game:

I had one where each player had two characters. One was made by usual PC rules, and the other was made with slightly less as a hireling the main party members would pick up in town to help (aka red shirts).

Most players ended up needing to hire someone new every few times. One of the red shirts ended up doing better than the player's main character did. :)
 

Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
Ideally, yes. The characters are all equally inhabitant in the fictional world and as far as possible I want their mechanics and interactions to reflect that, with the specific intention that unless you somehow know who is playing who (e.g. by looking at game logs or sitting at the table) you can't tell the difference.

For example, take two characters from my current Sunday night game:

Gretta - 8th-level Fighter, Part-Orc, female, N-aligned, specialized in longsword, currently on her third adventure in this game.
Vantos - 8th-level Cleric, Human, male, LG-aligned, deity is a variant on Apollo, currently on his seventh adventure in this game.

Over the last while these two have become the heart and soul of their current party. They're also both stinkin' rich, having come through a couple of very lucrative adventures without too much mishap.

Without looking at my online game records, are they both PCs; or is just one (and if so, which one); or is neither?

I didn’t ask your ideal situation, I asked if PCs and NPCs being equal in all ways was the norm at most D&D games.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I didn’t ask your ideal situation, I asked if PCs and NPCs being equal in all ways was the norm at most D&D games.
And how am I supposed to know that?

I know the case in the games I run and the game I play in (the DM of which shares a similar outlook). Were I to find myself playing at a table where it worked differently I'd raise questions until and unless I was satisfied with the answers.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's not that classes play the same - it's that there's nothing essential that a pc can't try to do. Anyone can attempt to pick locks - but a rogue who specializes in that will do it a lot better. So a party without a rogue isn't stuck when they reach a locked door.
This is a double-edged sword, for me. On the one hand I do like the idea of anyone being able to try anything (to a reasonable extent). That said, if the non-specialists' collective odds are good enough to make the specialist redundant, who's ever going to play the specialist?

Never mind that the rogue-less party isn't stuck anyway if they have the means to destroy or beat down the door, or spell their way through/past it.

Or, more meaningfully: you don't need magical healing. You have a decent-sized pool of self-healing available. Magical healing is helpful but not essential.
Given as 5e gives you back all your hit points on a long rest, healing of any kind isn't really necessary provided the party rests often.

IMO this is a serious bug rather than a feature. As with the lock specialist above, what's the point of having classes if everyone can more or less do everything?

Ergo, a party for four fighters can complete any adventure. The details wpould look different, but it's possible
An all-the-same-class party completing an adventure has always been possible, just not always easy. :)

Having all classes be very good at something while almost completely unable to do other things tends to force a) a mix of classes and archetypes in the party and b) a degree of interdependence between those characters. Which plays right back in to the thread topic: one of the biggest reasons NPCs come in to parties is because they've been recruited to fill holes in the lineup; and I don't mind this at all as it means the party is (for once!) doing something wise, and realistically planning and preparing for a variety of possibilities.
 


FXR

Explorer
To me, a GMPC is an equal to the party on all ways. Same build guidelines, same level, equal treasure, equal advancement and really simply their because the GM wants his or her own character.

I don't see how I could seriously enforce equal treasure between characters, let alone DMPC, at least when I play with adults. When I DM for my kids (8 and 6 years old), I do enforce some sort of equal treasure between them, because the game will otherwise go sour and the youngest one will end up crying, but then again, they are children.

More seriously, I see your point. The problem seem to lie with the motive of the DM: is the NPC's presence justified by an intent to further the story or by an intent by the GM to be a player in his or her own campaign?
 

I mean I'm all for and actually encourage the PCs to overcome DMpc/npcs. However, with that said, I also believe in said DMpc/npcs not just being slouches about letting that happen. Sure that Level 10 mercenary DMpc/Npc has seen his fair share of crap and he ain't got time to baby a bunch of PCs that can't keep up. He's got his own back to look out for and the PCs better ship up or go back to the farm they left from when they decided to become Adventurers.
 

An all-the-same-class party completing an adventure has always been possible, just not always easy. :)

Having all classes be very good at something while almost completely unable to do other things tends to force a) a mix of classes and archetypes in the party and b) a degree of interdependence between those characters. Which plays right back in to the thread topic: one of the biggest reasons NPCs come in to parties is because they've been recruited to fill holes in the lineup; and I don't mind this at all as it means the party is (for once!) doing something wise, and realistically planning and preparing for a variety of possibilities.

I think it's still true that a balanced mix of classes is more effective than a single class or a limited set of classes. You don't need a cleric for healing, but you can get a lot more healing if you have one, in addition to other holy person stuff. You don't need a rogue to do the rogue skills, but they have better chances of accomplishing it and don't have to redirect feats and stuff from other uses to do that. 5e rogues also deal quite a bit of damage and are straight up fun to play, and encourage a combat style where you don't just stand in an opponent's face, but dart in and out of combat (or go ranged), sometimes from hiding. Without some fightery types a party will probably struggle a lot. And wizards still have a lot of spells that do things you'll have to find highly creative ways to do without them.

Overall, the same considerations apply, it's just that the intensity of the effect has been attenuated compared to most past editions.

A lot of it also depends on how the DM rules things. For instance, I don't let you just keep rolling to try the same thing over and over. If you fail to pick the lock, you can probably try again in a few minutes, an hour later, and then a day after that, etc. And unless there are two people with proficiency in the party (the max number I let make separate attempts), that's only one person rolling for each attempt (if another character in the group tries, they use the same d20 roll with their own modifier). Running it that way, being good at a skill can make a big difference, because you can't always just hang around a dungeon for days trying to pick a lock. Other options like bashing down doors have the same restriction, so you probably want someone with a good Strength score too. If, on the other hand, you just let each party member keeping making rolls every 6 seconds until someone succeeds, then yeah, I'd share your distaste for the setup.

Even though niche protection seems less than 3e (which of course was a lot less than AD&D), the niche empowerment seems to make up for it. With cool enough carrots, you don't need as big of sticks.
 

glass

(he, him)
Why didn't the GM get the players to run the NPCs' turns?
You know what? I never thought to ask him. I will do so next time we speak, but in the meantime if I had to guess I would say that he thought that they wered potentially important later in the campaign, and/or the statblocks contained potential spoilers, so did not want to just hand them over.

Or, more meaningfully: you don't need magical healing. You have a decent-sized pool of self-healing available.
My 5e experience is mostly low-level AL, but was very much the opposite. Despite having a paladin and a life cleric, we would routinely run out of healing resources early on and have to struggle through half the scenario on reduced hitpoints.

_
glass.
 

Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
More seriously, I see your point. The problem seem to lie with the motive of the DM: is the NPC's presence justified by an intent to further the story or by an intent by the GM to be a player in his or her own campaign?

This is the real point IMHO. There is no reason whatsoever for a GMPC to be in a game.

Need a role filled? NPCs, Henchmen, hirelings, extra characters, etc.

The only reason a GMPC will be in a group is because the GM wants to run the game AND play in it at the same time.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't see how I could seriously enforce equal treasure between characters, let alone DMPC, at least when I play with adults.
Around here it's the players who enforce equal treasure between characters. The few times they didn't enforce it led to some pretty severe treasure and wealth imbalances within the party (some characters and-or players are just plain greedier than others); lesson learned. :)

More seriously, I see your point. The problem seem to lie with the motive of the DM: is the NPC's presence justified by an intent to further the story or by an intent by the GM to be a player in his or her own campaign?
You ask this as if those are the only two reasons an NPC would ever be in a party. There's a third, and it's IME more common than those two combined: the NPC is in the party because the PCs put and-or kept it there by their own choice.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Even though niche protection seems less than 3e (which of course was a lot less than AD&D), the niche empowerment seems to make up for it. With cool enough carrots, you don't need as big of sticks.
I'm coming at it from a 1e background thus niche protection is very much a thing; and niche empowerment (or "cool carrots") just means power creep, doesn't it? Not much help if one wants at least a modicum of grit in the game... :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is the real point IMHO. There is no reason whatsoever for a GMPC to be in a game.

Need a role filled? NPCs, Henchmen, hirelings, extra characters, etc.
Er...what exactly is the difference between "an NPC filling a role" and "a GMPC"? Henches and hirelings are subservient to the PCs in the fiction; adventuring NPCs are (usually) not. An adventuring NPC is simply a PC without a player. (this assumes, of course, that NPCs and PCs work on the same underlying mechanical framework and are indistinguishable within the fiction; if not, there's nothing here worth discussing)

The only reason a GMPC will be in a group is because the GM wants to run the game AND play in it at the same time.
You say this like it's a bad thing.

Obviously it can get bad, for sure, but that's not guaranteed; and it's on the GM to get it right. It's tricky, but very do-able.

Most non-AL GMs are going to, whether intentionally or not, tend to run the sort of game they'd want to play in; be it by theme or by playstyle or whatever - and so it only makes sense they'd want to, to some extent, be a part of it and be able to view it somewhat from the players' side. A sometimes-handy side effect here is that the GM who does this is more easily able to realize if-when things aren't working as well in play from the player point of view as theory might have suggested.
 

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