D&D 5E The Quest to Reduce "Sameyness" (+)

It has been a consistent problems in games I play and this is the reason why. If you have a DMPC and that character is a core part of the party for balance/mechanics reasons there are really only 2 ways to play it.

1. One is the DMPC makes no decisions at all. In this case it is not really a character, it is just a set of skills the party uses to cover gaps. It rubber stamps whatever the characters do and the characters can use it however they want more or less. The party decides what magic items he gets, the party decides where they go, what they do. The character is essentially a party familiar or a meat shield.

2. The other type is the DMPC that makes core decisions and they can't really be vetoed because they need the DMPC to play the game. This is what you are talking about in the quote above. A realistic, fleshed out character is going to have opinions and there is going to be friction between that character and other characters, just like there is between PCs. As a DM though if you are playing this out there is a huge power imbalance.

An NPC that is part of the story is different. They are not there to round out the party, they are there for story purposes.
The DMPC is an idiot, so the players always ignore what they suggest?
 

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ECMO3

Hero
I disagree with this so much. If anything, more classes should be like the warlock, built to suit a certain thematic flavor, and the warlock itself should be built even uniquely suited to its theme, treating the pact as an ongoing mechanical consideration instead of essentially relegating it to backstory. Classes just being names given to a set of interchangeable mechanics makes me think people in favor of that might like a classless system better.
See I think the backstory should do most of the heavy lifting on that, with the class mostly being mechanics.

I think a classless system would be fine and preferable to rigidly defined classes without feats or options (like spell casting fighters). You could very easily have a set of features like hit dice, weapon proficiencies, spell casting, number of attacks, skill proficiencies. ....... and you select these at various levels from a menu based on a point system.

The main downside to that is it would make the game more complicated and less friendly to new players.
 

ECMO3

Hero
The DMPC is an idiot, so the players always ignore what they suggest?
They can't ignore what the DMPCs suggest if the mechanics are needed to do the things the party wants to do unless the character is essentially a slave to the PCs.

They can reason, bargain, bribe, argue etc, just like the actual PCs do, but they can't really ignore him.
 

They can't ignore what the DMPCs suggest if the mechanics are needed to do the things the party wants to do unless the character is essentially a slave to the PCs.

They can reason, bargain, bribe, argue etc, just like the actual PCs do, but they can't really ignore him.
Minion, sidekick, hireling, pet, bumbling employer, hapless rescuee. They can all be there to supply skills, and have personalities, and not have to be listened to by the players.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Or go the other way and find thematic issues that can connect each class to the character definition, and in so doing make each class a bit more unique (which is the point of this thread, right?).

I think this is old school. It is certainly how it was when I started playing, I think the game is different now and better for it.

If the players wanted to play a face character then someone would play one. If they don't but still find that having one in the party is useful, this can be the self-inflicted result.

So the game should be less fun because no one wants to play a face class?

Sure it is self inflicted, but it is so easily countered by forexample letting your Ranger take a subclass that adds his wisdom to charisma skills.


In a realistic party I ought to be asking the same questions of the other PCs as well. PCs are allowed to be spies, or turncoats, or cowards, every bit as much as NPCs are....aren't they?

Typically no. There is a social contract between players (not characters) in all games. Sometimes it is explicit, sometimes it is implicit, but it almost always includes things like you don't kill other PCs.
 


ECMO3

Hero
Minion, sidekick, hireling, pet, bumbling employer, hapless rescuee. They can all be there to supply skills, and have personalities, and not have to be listened to by the players.
Ok the cowardly sidekick who is the only one who can pick locks says he is not entering the dungeon in Tomb of Horrors. What does the party do?

They can't do anything because he is needed. They essentially have to listen to him because his skills are a central, core part of the party and one that is necessary for this particular part of the adventure.
 

Ok the cowardly sidekick who is the only one who can pick locks says he is not entering the dungeon in Tomb of Horrors. What does the party do?

They can't do anything because he is needed. They essentially have to listen to him because his skills are a central, core part of the party and one that is necessary for this particular part of the adventure.
This is why Charm Person exists.

(Although I would consider a it poor design if a door on the critical path could only be opened by a successful, non-repeatable lockpick check.)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It has been a consistent problems in games I play and this is the reason why. If you have a DMPC and that character is a core part of the party for balance/mechanics reasons there are really only 2 ways to play it.

1. One is the DMPC makes no decisions at all. In this case it is not really a character, it is just a set of skills the party uses to cover gaps. It rubber stamps whatever the characters do and the characters can use it however they want more or less. The party decides what magic items he gets, the party decides where they go, what they do. The character is essentially a party familiar or a meat shield.

2. The other type is the DMPC that makes core decisions and they can't really be vetoed because they need the DMPC to play the game. This is what you are talking about in the quote above. A realistic, fleshed out character is going to have opinions and there is going to be friction between that character and other characters, just like there is between PCs. As a DM though if you are playing this out there is a huge power imbalance.
There's a fairly big middle ground between your options 1 and 2 above; and yes DMPC decisions can (and sometimes should be!) vetoed, in that if the DM's doing it halfway right the DMPC will sometimes make a wrong decision or come up with a bad idea just like a PC would.

As both player and DM I'd never want them to be your option 1 above, and it won't be: the other party members see the NPC as every bit as much a party member as they are, and treat it as such. It gets a vote, it can claim treasure items just like any other character, and so on.

With option 2, just because an NPC belongs to the DM is no reason for it to have any greater voice in the party than anyone else.

As for there being occasional friction between the PCs and the NPCs, why not? There's also friendships, romances, rivalries, and all sorts of other interaction between PCs and in-party NPCs - why not friction and arguments as well.
An NPC that is part of the story is different. They are not there to round out the party, they are there for story purposes.
These are often the bigger headache as DM, in that you can't really just treat them like any other character and let 'em die if they're gonna die, as they're expected to survive until the key moment when they are needed for the story.

Also, if that story-based NPC is there for a nefarious reason it can be useful to have had other NPCs come and go as well such that this one doesn't seem out of place.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
They can't ignore what the DMPCs suggest if the mechanics are needed to do the things the party wants to do unless the character is essentially a slave to the PCs.

They can reason, bargain, bribe, argue etc, just like the actual PCs do, but they can't really ignore him.
Why not?

Let's say the NPC is the party's only Thief. Why can't the other PCs ignore him when it comes to non-Thieving-related matters, just like they ignore the PC Wizard when it comes to melee-combat-related matters?

So if the NPC Thief says at a junction "Hey, let's go this way - I can just smell the treasure down there!" the rest of the party can ignore him and decide to go the other way, toward the castle dungeon in which is the person they've been sent to rescue.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I think this is old school. It is certainly how it was when I started playing, I think the game is different now and better for it.
I disagree that it's any improvement at all.
So the game should be less fun because no one wants to play a face class?
If nobody wants to play a face class then fine, either they've got to go and recruit an NPC as their face or they have to go without.

It's called being forced to make choices where none of the options are perfect.
Sure it is self inflicted, but it is so easily countered by forexample letting your Ranger take a subclass that adds his wisdom to charisma skills.
And thus allowing the Ranger to, in effect, multiclass without having to suffer any of the drawbacks multiclassing entails.

No. You want that feature, you multi- into a class that can provide it.
Typically no. There is a social contract between players (not characters) in all games. Sometimes it is explicit, sometimes it is implicit, but it almost always includes things like you don't kill other PCs.
How did you jump from "spies, or turncoats, or cowards," to "kill other PCs"? Just because someone in the game world has "PC" stamped on the forehead doesn't automatically mean you can trust it! They're allowed to be individuals, and to have their own agenda which may or may not entirely agree with that of the party or of any other PC.

And no, that "social contract" doesn't apply to all games. In some games, almost anything goes as long as the disputes (if-when they arise) stay in-character.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Ok the cowardly sidekick who is the only one who can pick locks says he is not entering the dungeon in Tomb of Horrors. What does the party do?
If they're decent people they just go back to town, fire that sidekick, and hire another.

And if the sidekick was someone's PC, so be it. Everyone's having their character do what it would do, and it wouldn't be the first time someone's roleplayed a character right out of a party. (allowing the player's replacement PC to join the party while in town would be the nice thing to do as DM; and if the replacement PC isn't a lock-picker they'll need to recruit one of those as well)
They can't do anything because he is needed. They essentially have to listen to him because his skills are a central, core part of the party and one that is necessary for this particular part of the adventure.
As noted above: they don't have to listen to him, they just have to replace him.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
To avoid derailing this thread any more with talk of PC trustworthiness etc., I've started a new one here:

 



DND_Reborn

Legend
To avoid derailing this thread any more with talk of PC trustworthiness etc., I've started a new one here:

Thank you! I saw there was post in my thread and got excited until I saw it was a back-and-forth with someone I am ignoring... I was going to say something about this, but thank you for being considerate and moving your discussion elsewhere.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Why not?

Let's say the NPC is the party's only Thief. Why can't the other PCs ignore him when it comes to non-Thieving-related matters, just like they ignore the PC Wizard when it comes to melee-combat-related matters?

So if the NPC Thief says at a junction "Hey, let's go this way - I can just smell the treasure down there!" the rest of the party can ignore him and decide to go the other way, toward the castle dungeon in which is the person they've been sent to rescue.
In 5e RAW, and this is really my point, the wizard with the right background has a great investigation and proficiencys in theives tools. With a feat he can even get expertise. So your 3-person party has that covered and they don't even need to bring the Thief at all. The thief "niche" can be covered while leaving the thief NPC at home.

The whole premise here is every class should have a niche and that you should use DMPCs/NPCs to fill in that niche because other classes should not be able to. If this is the game, and the party decides to leave the NPC then by definition the niche is not being filled.

The DMPC is there specifically to fix a problem that is caused by not allowing classes feats or capability outside their "
niche". If he is not there, that problem is not fixed.
 

ECMO3

Hero
And thus allowing the Ranger to, in effect, multiclass without having to suffer any of the drawbacks multiclassing entails.

No. You want that feature, you multi- into a class that can provide it.
There is no logical reason tom exclude from the Ranger class. And there are drawbacks, because he is not getting other abilities.

For example the Ranger who takes Fey Wanderer and gets this specific benefit at 3rd level can't take the Gloom Stalker subclass. He is essentially giving up being invisible in darkness .... and darkvision if his race doesn't have it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
In 5e RAW, and this is really my point, the wizard with the right background has a great investigation and proficiencys in theives tools. With a feat he can even get expertise. So your 3-person party has that covered and they don't even need to bring the Thief at all. The thief "niche" can be covered while leaving the thief NPC at home.
This niche-covering by other classes leads directly to the sameyness the OP is trying to defeat.
The whole premise here is every class should have a niche and that you should use DMPCs/NPCs to fill in that niche because other classes should not be able to. If this is the game, and the party decides to leave the NPC then by definition the niche is not being filled.
And if not filling that niche is their choice then so be it.

That said, using NPCs to fill a gap is my second choice; my first is for some or all of the players to run a second PC.

And there's also this: in-character it makes sense that the characters would soon enough come to realize that there is strength in numbers, meaning their logical move would be to hoover up every adventuring character they can find and go into the dungeon with a party of dozens; no niche left uncovered and most having several layers of backup coverage. :)
The DMPC is there specifically to fix a problem that is caused by not allowing classes feats or capability outside their "niche". If he is not there, that problem is not fixed.
You see this as a bug, I see it as a feature. Leaving niches uncovered is sometimes a difficult choice and sometimes has consequences; I like both of these.
 

Shadowedeyes

Adventurer
How specific is a niche though? Lockpicking as the example, was once a "niche" of the Thief class. Well, except for the Knock spell.

But what about, say, the fighter? The closest thing I can think was ever a niche for them was getting weapon mastery, which is really specific. In contrast, wizards had cast spells from what I can tell. Clerics was Turn Undead.
 

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