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When does an NPC become a GMPC?


Gamer Talk

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Taldor

I don't feel like I use GMPC's but I'm beginning to wonder...

I'll preface my explanation by saying we're playing Kingmaker so there are a TON of NPC's and that I've gotten a lot of compliments over the years for making my NPC's seem like real people so I do invest more than passing effort into them - particularly those the players seem to latch onto, for whatever reason.

Often, my players may try to fill a gap in their party configuration by retaining the services of an NPC. Sometimes, that might be a short term relationship ("Guys, Rith is a good rogue but far from a trap expert and we know this dungeon has some nasty traps. Let's see if we can find someone to deal with the traps for this.") but, throughout the years, there have been certain NPC's that they've come to accept as members of their party - sometimes even preferring their friendship to other PC's. I don't start them that way but once the players give an npc a recurring role, I will flesh them out, give them backgrounds with at least as much development as the pc's (because my players will inevitably try to learn more about them), eventually graduate them from a stat block to a character sheet (mostly so I might hand the sheet to someone else so they can control them during a combat scene), etc. I've always felt that the best analogy is that if the PC's are Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and most NPC's fall into the yoeman to redshirt category, then these special npc's are more like Sulu, Scotty, etc. To me, they are not gmpc's but I've seen the term bandied about to the extent that I wonder if my personal definition of what that means might be too narrow.

So my main question is: what separates an NPC from a GMPC?

Sub-questions are: Is a gmpc always, at the very least, a warning sign? Or is it just 'a thing'?

Shadow Lodge

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Depends on how you define DMPC.

It's not a bad thing. It's not a good thing. It's all in how you handle it. So, it's just 'a thing'.


If you're playing the character like it was your own character. Stealing the spotlight from the players.

If you start getting too attached to them or the players start getting irritated with them, rotate them out for awhile. If you don't want to do that, they're probably a GMPC.

Shadow Lodge

A GMPC on its own is not a bad thing. A skilled GM can have a GMPC in the party and not be terrible, not hog the spotlight, let the other players take the lead, and generally not ruin everything. The reason GMPCs are so complained about is that it's very easy to use them poorly, and doing so is a hallmark of a poor - or at least new or inexperienced - GM.

The main call I would say that separates a GMPC from the herd of NPCs is their closeness to the party, the plot, and their on-screen time. The plot, primarily, will focus on the PCs and their reactions and initiatives. An NPC will have their own things going on in the background, often out of PC sight and hearing, leaving them unaware until they stumble onto it or ask. A GMPC, on the other hand, is a member of the party, and will generally be involved in all the things the PCs are. S/he will share their knowledge (presuming, again, the GM isn't using them improperly and giving them more info than the rest of the party, outside things like knowledge checks that they make and the others fail [which should itself be pretty rare - stick to a rarely-used knowledge skill the other teammates don't have, like Dungeoneering or Geography perhap, would be my recommendation]), participate in most if not all of their adventures, and generally act like just another PC, just controlled by the GM. The main issue with this is, as TOZ said, that they run the risk of claiming the spotlight away from the PCs. Not so bad if one PC is taking their turn at center stage... but bad form for the GM, when it isn't an antagonist getting their monologue or something, to seize the stage like that, generally.

It doesn't sound like your NPCs are in danger of stealing the spotlight. They're more hirelings than GMPCs, really - they're only with the party because someone's paying them. The fact that the party gets attached to them is a testament to how well you're fleshing out and portraying your NPCs, which is a good thing. The fact that the party seems to prefer your NPCs to their own fellow PCs is... well, odd, but that's on them, not you. You're doing your job as GM and giving your world and its inhabitants lives of their own, which is a good thing, and your players are responding.

I think you're fine, so long as you don't decide to have one of these special NPCs suddenly become highly central to the plot or anything (unless they become an antagonist of course). So long as they remain just what they are, and the PCs remain your main focus in your story, I think you'll be fine. =)


I would say if the NPC is taking a share of the XP, gear and most importantly spotlight it might be a DMPC (in a kinda bad way).


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The way I see it:

A GMPC would be a character on equal terms with the other PCs. They would participate in adventures on equal footing with the PCs, and get an equal share of treasure and experience.

An NPC is what you have described.

If your NPCs were GMPCs, you wouldn't hand their sheets to others to run, just like you wouldn't hand your PC-sheet to another player to run.

Taldor

TOZ wrote:

Depends on how you define DMPC.

It's not a bad thing. It's not a good thing. It's all in how you handle it. So, it's just 'a thing'.

How do you define it? When would you say that an npc is a gmpc?

Taldor

Are wrote:

The way I see it:

A GMPC would be a character on equal terms with the other PCs. They would participate in adventures on equal footing with the PCs, and get an equal share of treasure and experience.

An NPC is what you have described.

If your NPCs were GMPCs, you wouldn't hand their sheets to others to run, just like you wouldn't hand your PC-sheet to another player to run.

I'm getting mixed signals!

The 'special' npc's DO perform on equal terms with the pc's. They participate on adventures (perhaps by invitation, but still...), receive equal shares of treasure (again, the players actually decide, at some point, that the npc has become integral to the party so they deserve it) and experience (i used to give half-shares but, in Kingmaker, it was very easy for the players to load up on npc's so I had to make it a heavy consideration for them). So by these criteria, I might have a GMPC with the party.

However, everything else says I don't...

Not that it matters... Whatever works and is fun is good, after all. Its more a matter of curiosi for me.


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When the GM would rather be a player, but is forced to run a game and inserts the character they would have rather played into said game.

It's an amateur move.


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roccojr wrote:

I'm getting mixed signals!

The 'special' npc's DO perform on equal terms with the pc's. They participate on adventures (perhaps by invitation, but still...), receive equal shares of treasure (again, the players actually decide, at some point, that the npc has become integral to the party so they deserve it) and experience (i used to give half-shares but, in Kingmaker, it was very easy for the players to load up on npc's so I had to make it a heavy consideration for them). So by these criteria, I might have a GMPC with the party.

However, everything else says I don't...

I'm pretty sure you're safely in NPC-territory; in your case it's the players who are making the decisions of which NPCs to "elevate", rather than you as the GM. Plus, you're only fleshing the NPCs out once this happens, as opposed to having everything related to the NPC set up from the start.

Unless you would force the party to keep one of these NPCs with them if the players at some point decide to "relegate" that NPC again, you don't have a GMPC on your hands :)


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Yeah, I think the name says it all:
If it's the GM's Player Character, then it's a GMPC and probably a problem.
If it's a Non-Player Character, then it's an NPC and probably not a problem.

What goes on in the game, traveling with the party, getting shares of treasure and what not, isn't really the issue. It's an attitude thing.

Shadow Lodge

Are wrote:

I'm pretty sure you're safely in NPC-territory; in your case it's the players who are making the decisions of which NPCs to "elevate", rather than you as the GM. Plus, you're only fleshing the NPCs out once this happens, as opposed to having everything related to the NPC set up from the start.

Unless you would force the party to keep one of these NPCs with them if the players at some point decide to "relegate" that NPC again, you don't have a GMPC on your hands :)

This.


roccojr wrote:
So my main question is: what separates an NPC from a GMPC?

The same thing that separates genius from insanity: your degree of success. If your players view the character as "just a cohort", just that guy you bring along to disarm traps like a walking utility belt, then he's an NPC. If they respond to this character as an equal in the party, interact with him, develop connections, etc. then he's a GMPC. It more depends on the players' response as you could handle the same character in the same way between two groups. One could see him as "trap-finder #5" no matter how deep a story-line you RP for him. Another party could respond and relate to him better than they do their other party members. It's a subjective thing so there's no single meter stick to measure it by. Even in a single party, some players might just see him as a walking tool (or liability, in the case of an Alignment Police Paladin) more than a character while other players in the same group view him as a fleshed out character and would even spend a divine wish bringing him back from the dead.

Another aspect is how well you play him. Is he hogging all the glory? Is the player party just the tag-alongs? He may think of them as tag-alongs when, in reality, they're doing all the important stuff (ok) or they might really just be inconsequential tag-alongs and he's the anchor-man of sorts. Is he the anchor-man for a lvl-1, just starting out party who does just enough work for the early-game to be a challenge without being a TPK-fest? After this, do the others "catch up" so to speak and anchor-man status changes hands? Are you compartmentalizing your character from your GM role and not taking advantage of your GM knowledge? There are a million little questions to ask but, ultimately, the responsibility of the GM is to provide a fun game for his players. If the presence of this character isn't fun for your player party, then he's bad whether he's an NPC or a GMPC, and v.v.

Taldor

Orthos wrote:
The fact that the party seems to prefer your NPCs to their own fellow PCs is... well, odd, but that's on them, not you.

Well... Not always and not all (though I won't debate my players being odd). There are usually a couple of pc's that are at odds so they might pref the npc to their frenemy or, in my current Pathfinder campaign, there are two pc's with well-played dumpstatted Charisma while the NPC is a high-charisma sorceress. Its easy to like her more!


thejeff wrote:

If you're playing the character like it was your own character. Stealing the spotlight from the players.

If you start getting too attached to them or the players start getting irritated with them, rotate them out for awhile. If you don't want to do that, they're probably a GMPC.

mmm i think the right anwers is

"If you start getting too attached to them or the players start getting irritated with them, rotate them out for awhile. If you don't want to do that, they're probably Bad a GMPC. "

Taldor

Are wrote:
Unless you would force the party to keep one of these NPCs with them if the players at some point decide to "relegate" that NPC again, you don't have a GMPC on your hands :)

Actually, I've forcee it the other way most recently. They began to elevate an npc ranger into that status. There was a pc ranger in the party and while there are tons of ways to make characters of the same class different enough, ultimately there were too many similarities in their combat abilities for my own comfort. The party raised the ranger after a bad combat. I decided that the ranger was so traumatized that they retired from adventuring. They still kept the ranger around as the Spy Master of their kingdom...


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I'll add, a good GM treats the entire campaign like a beloved character, including the actual player characters. If you're doing that correctly, there's really no reason to choose a single NPC to favor.

The worst part about a fully-malfunctioning GMPC in progress is that it shows the GM would rather be a player. It is usually a relatively immature gamer who doesn't yet grasp the GM's job to objectively torment and reward the players; it's not something you can do to your own character. This means the GM in question usually sees GMing as a chore that someone must do, and that they should get benefits in the form of their own fantasy fulfillment for stepping up to the job.

GMPCs: Always unnecessary, and frequently a bad idea.

Shadow Lodge

I'll agree with all of your post except the last line, EL. I've seen GMPCs done well, usually in small parties that can't cover all the grounds due to not having enough players and the ones that are there not wanting to run multiple PCs. And sometimes a GM is just that darn good that they can have a PC in the party, treat them as horribly objectively and reward them just as well - no better and no worse - than the rest of the party, and everyone at the table have a good time of it.

It's admittedly not common, and the poorly-done GMPC trope far more so, but I wouldn't say strictly "Always" unnecessary.


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Kazaan wrote:
The same thing that separates genius from insanity: your degree of success. If your players view the character as "just a cohort", just that guy you bring along to disarm traps like a walking utility belt, then he's an NPC. If they respond to this character as an equal in the party, interact with him, develop connections, etc. then he's a GMPC.

I don't care for this definition at all. By this logic I have more GMPCs than NPCs, and that's simply not the case. The NPCs are non-player characters. That includes the equals in the party who are controlled by the GM.

A GMPC occurs when a GM tries to play in the campaign at the same time as running it. It is not a property of the PC, but the GM's attitude toward that character. The other players' view of the situation is irrelevant.

Sometimes, it doesn't ruin the game, but often it does. It belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the Player-GM dynamic.


Orthos wrote:

I'll agree with all of your post except the last line, EL. I've seen GMPCs done well, usually in small parties that can't cover all the grounds due to not having enough players and the ones that are there not wanting to run multiple PCs. And sometimes a GM is just that darn good that they can have a PC in the party, treat them as horribly objectively and reward them just as well - no better and no worse - than the rest of the party, and everyone at the table have a good time of it.

It's admittedly not common, and the poorly-done GMPC trope far more so, but I wouldn't say strictly "Always" unnecessary.

Whether or not the character in your anecdote was a GMPC or merely an NPC is the substance of the argument.

I would say that a GMPC "done right" is an NPC.

Supporting the players well with a competent, likable non-player character is not the same as trying to play the game you are running. The former is an NPC, with good GMing. The latter is harmless self-indulgence at best, and terrible narcissism at worst.


Nicos wrote:
thejeff wrote:

If you're playing the character like it was your own character. Stealing the spotlight from the players.

If you start getting too attached to them or the players start getting irritated with them, rotate them out for awhile. If you don't want to do that, they're probably a GMPC.

mmm i think the right anwers is

"If you start getting too attached to them or the players start getting irritated with them, rotate them out for awhile. If you don't want to do that, they're probably Bad a GMPC. "

I've always thought of GMPC as bad by definition. If it's not bad, it's just an NPC. (Though there are other types of bad NPCs.)

Shadow Lodge

Evil Lincoln wrote:
Orthos wrote:

I'll agree with all of your post except the last line, EL. I've seen GMPCs done well, usually in small parties that can't cover all the grounds due to not having enough players and the ones that are there not wanting to run multiple PCs. And sometimes a GM is just that darn good that they can have a PC in the party, treat them as horribly objectively and reward them just as well - no better and no worse - than the rest of the party, and everyone at the table have a good time of it.

It's admittedly not common, and the poorly-done GMPC trope far more so, but I wouldn't say strictly "Always" unnecessary.

Whether or not the character in your anecdote was a GMPC or merely an NPC is the substance of the argument.

I would say that a GMPC "done right" is an NPC.

It's early, I think I missed that in your initial post. Need more caffeine.


Evil Lincoln wrote:
Orthos wrote:

I'll agree with all of your post except the last line, EL. I've seen GMPCs done well, usually in small parties that can't cover all the grounds due to not having enough players and the ones that are there not wanting to run multiple PCs. And sometimes a GM is just that darn good that they can have a PC in the party, treat them as horribly objectively and reward them just as well - no better and no worse - than the rest of the party, and everyone at the table have a good time of it.

It's admittedly not common, and the poorly-done GMPC trope far more so, but I wouldn't say strictly "Always" unnecessary.

Whether or not the character in your anecdote was a GMPC or merely an NPC is the substance of the argument.

I would say that a GMPC "done right" is an NPC.

Supporting the players well with a competent, likable non-player character is not the same as trying to play the game you are running. The former is an NPC, with good GMing. The latter is harmless self-indulgence at best, and terrible narcissism at worst.

If you define a GMPC as a bad npc then be definition all GMPC are bad. So this discussion is pointless.


Nicos wrote:
If you define a GMPC as a bad npc then be definition all GMPC are bad. So this discussion is pointless.

I'd call it a type of bad NPC, one of many. The forgettable NPC or the inconsistent NPC are also bad PCs. There's also the predictable cliché betraying mission-giver NPC. Classic!

But yes, GMPC is the name of a mistake, in my estimation. It's germane to the thread topic, though.

When does an NPC become a GMPC?

When the GM is trying to have a player experience in his own campaign. (Something I believe cannot be done and is frequently to the detriment of the games in which it is attempted.)


Nicos wrote:

If you define a GMPC as a bad npc then be definition all GMPC are bad. So this discussion is pointless.

Except the discussion isn't "What makes a bad GMPC?", but "Am I using GMPCs? How do I tell? Is it always bad?"

At least that's what I got from the first post.


Evil Lincoln wrote:
I don't care for this definition at all. By this logic I have more GMPCs than NPCs, and that's simply not the case.

Is that not the case because you'd prefer it not to be the case? Did you consider the possibility that maybe you do have more GMPCs than NPCs and just hadn't realized it? Being a GM doesn't mean you're not a player; you're just playing a very specific role. It seems your only problem is with GMs who cannot compartmentalize a GMPC from their GM authority and will "favor" their own character unfairly. If the GM is capable of playing their character completely segregated from their GM knowledge, then more power to them. It's a rare skill but it still exists. It's basically willful cognitive dissonance and it runs both ways; the best GMPC is the one played such that the PC benefits from no GM knowledge and the GM benefits from no PC knowledge.


Kazaan, it seems plain that we don't see eye to eye on this one. No hard feelings.


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PCs have a few things going for them that nobody else does. They get massive benefits of doubt, first. When a dead PCs replacement comes jogging along, they are accepted by the party unlike anything any other character gets. They have an expectation of screen time. They have an expectation of fairness compared to the other PCs. They have an expectation of having their plots visited at some point. In most campaigns, they have an expectation of not getting killed without reasonable warning or cause.

Once these things start to go for your NPCs, they cross the line into GMPC territory, and it WILL hurt your game.


Kazaan: I think what Evil Lincoln was referring to is that by your definition above, every NPC the party interacts with or develops connections with automatically becomes a GMPC.

There are dozens of NPCs my parties interact with during a campaign, many of which they develop connections to. Most of these NPCs have no influence on the story beyond the encounters they're a part of (although a select few do, in that they become love interests, business partners, or the like), and most of them don't even have character sheets. Are they then GMPCs?

Edit: Or perhaps you were only referring to NPCs that travelled with the party. In that case, disregard the above :)


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Are wrote:

Kazaan: I think what Evil Lincoln was referring to is that by your definition above, every NPC the party interacts with or develops connections with automatically becomes a GMPC.

There are dozens of NPCs my parties interact with during a campaign, many of which they develop connections to. Most of these NPCs have no influence on the story beyond the encounters they're a part of (although a select few do, in that they become love interests, business partners, or the like), and most of them don't even have character sheets. Are they then GMPCs?

Edit: Or perhaps you were only referring to NPCs that travelled with the party. In that case, disregard the above :)

It depends in all cases. It depends on how deeply the party is RPing (face it, for RP, some are shallow, deep, or anything in between), how involved the GM is, etc. You have to decide on a case-by-case basis and it's more (but not completely) based on the players' opinions rather than the GM's. And whether it is or isn't a GMPC has little to no bearing on whether it's a good GMPC or a bad one. Sweeping generalizations are bad.


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Kazaan wrote:
Are wrote:

Kazaan: I think what Evil Lincoln was referring to is that by your definition above, every NPC the party interacts with or develops connections with automatically becomes a GMPC.

There are dozens of NPCs my parties interact with during a campaign, many of which they develop connections to. Most of these NPCs have no influence on the story beyond the encounters they're a part of (although a select few do, in that they become love interests, business partners, or the like), and most of them don't even have character sheets. Are they then GMPCs?

Edit: Or perhaps you were only referring to NPCs that travelled with the party. In that case, disregard the above :)

It depends in all cases. It depends on how deeply the party is RPing (face it, for RP, some are shallow, deep, or anything in between), how involved the GM is, etc. You have to decide on a case-by-case basis and it's more (but not completely) based on the players' opinions rather than the GM's. And whether it is or isn't a GMPC has little to no bearing on whether it's a good GMPC or a bad one. Sweeping generalizations are bad.

So far we've got 3 definitions, right?

1) Kazaan's, which seems to be "Developed NPC, that the players have connections to".

2) based on traveling with PCs and being treated on a equal bases in terms of treasure and the like.

3) EL's (which I share), where a GMPC is an NPC the GM plays like his own PC.

I think we all pretty much agree on the basics and on what's good or bad in a game. We just call them different names.

Using 1), GMPCs are good. You want more of them in your game.
Using 2), it's pretty much neutral. Use them if the party needs them.
Using 3), they are at the very least tricky to do well and potentially game-ruining. I can see very few good reasons to do this.

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
roccojr wrote:
How do you define it? When would you say that an npc is a gmpc?

I define it as an NPC that is a part of the party. As you can see, others define it as an NPC the DM treats as a PC.

The line is very blurry.


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I agree with TOZ definition.


thejeff wrote:

So far we've got 3 definitions, right?

1) Kazaan's, which seems to be "Developed NPC, that the players have connections to".

2) based on traveling with PCs and being treated on a equal bases in terms of treasure and the like.

3) EL's (which I share), where a GMPC is an NPC the GM plays like his own PC.
I think we all pretty much agree on the basics and on what's good or bad in a game. We just call them different names.

Using 1), GMPCs are good. You want more of them in your game.
Using 2), it's pretty much neutral. Use them if the party needs them.
Using 3), they are at the very least tricky to do well and potentially game-ruining. I can see very few good reasons to do this.

Pretty much, yes. The only issue comes when the GM has a GMPC that they treat like an NPC. Take the following example:

Say the party is dungeon diving and they come to a room with 3 possible exits. As the GM, you know that Exit A has treasure, Exit B has traps, and Exit C has monsters. Your party has to decide which exit to explore first. If the GM is controlling a GMPC in the party, he might use said character to say, "I think we could take Exit A" because he wants the party to get the treasure before going to fight the monsters. He could also say, "I think we could take Exit C" because he wants to get them into a fight with monsters before the treasure is acquired. Or he could say, "I think we could take Exit B" because the GM is a jerkwad. This is a bad GMPC because he's basing his decision on GM knowledge. On the other hand, he said "I think we could take Exit A" because of his own reasons (picked randomly, spider sense tingled, etc.) and came to the decision by the same process that a player without GM knowledge would have done it, then it's a good GMPC. On the other hand, if this is an NPC we're talking about (the party just takes him as a trap toolkit with legs) then he could very well be used as a plot device with full GM knowledge and lead the party down Exit A if the GM feels they need a gear boost or down Exit C if he feels they're adequately prepared for a fight. Also, it's up to the players as a group to decide where to go; they could disregard the advice, designate the GMPC/NPC as the official decision-maker of the group, or anything in between.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
roccojr wrote:
How do you define it? When would you say that an npc is a gmpc?

I define it as an NPC that is a part of the party. As you can see, others define it as an NPC the DM treats as a PC.

The line is very blurry.

What about Hirelings and the like?

Or NPCs who have their own motivations?

Is getting a share of treasure and xp the line?


thejeff wrote:


Using 1), GMPCs are good. You want more of them in your game.
Using 2), it's pretty much neutral. Use them if the party needs them.
Using 3), they are at the very least tricky to do well and potentially game-ruining. I can see very few good reasons to do this.

Thanks Jeff for clarifying.

Those are in fact my stances on each definition.

Note that in the last one, it doesn't always ruin the game, but it has much more potential for ruining the game than not running a Type III GMPC.


Kazaan wrote:
thejeff wrote:

So far we've got 3 definitions, right?

1) Kazaan's, which seems to be "Developed NPC, that the players have connections to".

2) based on traveling with PCs and being treated on a equal bases in terms of treasure and the like.

3) EL's (which I share), where a GMPC is an NPC the GM plays like his own PC.
I think we all pretty much agree on the basics and on what's good or bad in a game. We just call them different names.

Using 1), GMPCs are good. You want more of them in your game.
Using 2), it's pretty much neutral. Use them if the party needs them.
Using 3), they are at the very least tricky to do well and potentially game-ruining. I can see very few good reasons to do this.

Pretty much, yes. The only issue comes when the GM has a GMPC that they treat like an NPC. Take the following example:

Say the party is dungeon diving and they come to a room with 3 possible exits. As the GM, you know that Exit A has treasure, Exit B has traps, and Exit C has monsters. Your party has to decide which exit to explore first. If the GM is controlling a GMPC in the party, he might use said character to say, "I think we could take Exit A" because he wants the party to get the treasure before going to fight the monsters. He could also say, "I think we could take Exit C" because he wants to get them into a fight with monsters before the treasure is acquired. Or he could say, "I think we could take Exit B" because the GM is a jerkwad. This is a bad GMPC because he's basing his decision on GM knowledge. On the other hand, he said "I think we could take Exit A" because of his own reasons (picked randomly, spider sense tingled, etc.) and came to the decision by the same process that a player without GM knowledge would have done it, then it's a good GMPC. On the other hand, if this is an NPC we're talking about (the party just takes him as a trap toolkit with legs) then he could very well be used as a plot device with full GM knowledge and lead the party down Exit A if the...

So the GM is a good or bad GM based on what the players think of his NPC? What if some have developed relations with him, but the others think of him as just a portable toolkit?

Frankly, I'd say it's bad GMing to base the NPC's advice on what the GM wants the group to do no matter what kind of NPC it is. NPCs should always have their own motivations for doing things, possible sketchy and vague if it's minor NPC.


Kazaan wrote:
This is a bad GMPC because he's basing his decision on GM knowledge. On the other hand, he said "I think we could take Exit A" because of his own reasons (picked randomly, spider sense tingled, etc.) and came to the decision by the same process that a player without GM knowledge would have done it, then it's a good GMPC. On the other hand, if this is an NPC we're talking about (the party just takes him as a trap toolkit with legs) then he could very well be used as a plot device with full GM knowledge and lead the party down Exit A if the GM feels they need a gear boost or down Exit C if he feels they're adequately prepared for a fight. Also, it's up to the players as a group to decide where to go; they could disregard the advice, designate the GMPC/NPC as the official decision-maker of the group, or anything in between.

This is a pretty good example of how much can go wrong and how little payoff that a Type III GMPC can impart.

Why is the GMPC in this example suggesting anything at all? Why are the players not solving this problem?

The GM in the example may feel he is being helpful, or providing rich characterization, but if there is a single relevant clue that gets revealed through the GMPC's acumen instead of being related to a player directly, the GM has passed over an opportunity to let the player play the game. It doesn't always ruin the experience, but it almost never enhances it.

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Evil Lincoln wrote:

What about Hirelings and the like?

Or NPCs who have their own motivations?

Is getting a share of treasure and xp the line?

If the hireling is part of the party, yes. Is a PC who the party hired as a bodyguard part of the party?

If the NPC is part of the party, yes. PCs can have their own motivations too.

I have had PCs who did not get shares of the treasure and were still part of the party. And you already know how I view XP.

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Really, I just have an issue with players treating PCs and NPCs differently based on just that single distinction.


Evil Lincoln wrote:
Why is the GMPC in this example suggesting anything at all? Why are the players not solving this problem?

Like I said, it's up to the players to discount the advice wholesale, accept it wholesale, or anything in between. If they have a designated "party leader" who listens to all the advice then makes a decision based on the info (collects the results of all the perception checks and such), then the GMPC is simply offering advice to the pot. If they act based on a party vote, the GMPC is simply another vote. But the crux of it is that it's just a hard thing to do. It's just like riding a unicycle on a tightrope while juggling... very hard to do, disastrous if you mess it up, little practical value beyond giving a dazzling performance. If your players want to see that and you're able to do it, why not? If they don't like the circus performance, don't bother even if you're the best unicycle-riding tightrope-balancing juggler in the world.


In my personal opinion there really isn’t any clear distinction between the two. The characters a GM creates are simply other characters in a story. Flushing them out simply makes for a better more vibrant story with a world that has more depth to it. I have been GMing over 20 years and work in much the same way, in act based strictly off of what you’ve said in this thread I’d say we have very similar style. Now if I were to define a GMPC as a separate thing I would say that they are characters that have a fully flushed out character sheet AND that have become part of the PC group that adventures together.

As far as warning signs go, I have to say, no they are not any kind of a warning sign. GMPC’s, as I'm defining them, are merely another tool in the GM tool belt. They can be used to flush out an incomplete party in small groups of people, to provide abilities that the party current lack so that they can face an upcoming challenge, or even as simply a way to nudge the party in the right direction or create a greater degree of interactivity between party members and add more role-playing opportunities.

That said, they are a tool that can be easily mishandled. While there is nothing inherently wrong with using them in the story or even having one of them take center stage for a bit, as with any good novel or movie, it’s important to make sure that these occurrences are brief and have a reason to occur within your story. The player’s characters, and not your NPC’s, GMPC’s, or whatever, are the main characters in the story and other characters (of any type) should not overshadow them.

Basically, the danger comes from those GM’s that stop making the story about the player’s characters and the decisions they make. If this happens, most players are likely to start feeling like they are just along for the ride and that can kill a game. But as long as everyone’s having a ball playing and likes were the game is going you shouldn’t concern yourself with the opinions of others.

****

Having said that, keep in mind that as you can see on this thread, there is no clear definition of what a GMPC is. In fact I almost started arguing with Evil Lincoln after reading his first post but after reading the rest I realized our only real difference of opinion was in our definitions. It’s not in any dictionary that I’m aware off and while definitions of different individuals are often similar, a small difference can lead to a large misunderstanding. This is likely why in some threads you can see such different opinions on them.


Revel wrote:

In my personal opinion there really isn’t any clear distinction between the two. The characters a GM creates are simply other characters in a story. Flushing them out simply makes for a better more vibrant story with a world that has more depth to it. I have been GMing over 20 years and work in much the same way, in act based strictly off of what you’ve said in this thread I’d say we have very similar style. Now if I were to define a GMPC as a separate thing I would say that they are characters that have a fully flushed out character sheet AND that have become part of the PC group that adventures together.

As far as warning signs go, I have to say, no they are not any kind of a warning sign. GMPC’s, as I'm defining them, are merely another tool in the GM tool belt. They can be used to flush out an incomplete party in small groups of people, to provide abilities that the party current lack so that they can face an upcoming challenge, or even as simply a way to nudge the party in the right direction or create a greater degree of interactivity between party members and add more role-playing opportunities.

That said, they are a tool that can be easily mishandled. While there is nothing inherently wrong with using them in the story or even having one of them take center stage for a bit, as with any good novel or movie, it’s important to make sure that these occurrences are brief and have a reason to occur within your story. The player’s characters, and not your NPC’s, GMPC’s, or whatever, are the main characters in the story and other characters (of any type) should not overshadow them.

Basically, the danger comes from those GM’s that stop making the story about the player’s characters and the decisions they make. If this happens, most players are likely to start feeling like they are just along for the ride and that can kill a game. But as long as everyone’s having a ball playing and likes were the game is going you shouldn’t concern yourself with the opinions of others.

****

Having said that, keep in mind that as you can see on this thread, there is no clear definition of what a GMPC is. In fact I almost started arguing with Evil Lincoln after reading his first post but after reading the rest I realized our only real difference of opinion was in our definitions. It’s not in any dictionary that I’m aware off and while definitions of different individuals are often similar, a small difference can lead to a large misunderstanding. This is likely why in some threads you can see such different opinions on them.

Your post pretty much sums up why I think EL's definition is the more useful one. To me, the other uses don't really draw useful distinctions. Whether someone is a DMPC or a regular NPC by the other definitions may vary from adventure to adventure depending on whether he's traveling with the party that day or not or change as he gets more characterization, etc. And it doesn't really matter what you call it. There's no useful distinction to be made that I see.

But the GMPC as the GM's PC is thing that's worth focusing on, because it is a potential problem. It's something to watch out for and avoid, or at least be very careful with. That seems to me like it needs a name, just so it can be talked about more easily. If that name isn't GMPC, what should it be?

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Quote:
If that name isn't GMPC, what should it be?

Pet NPC.


Only pet your NPCs if they're willing. Otherwise you'll get in trouble.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Quote:
If that name isn't GMPC, what should it be?
Pet NPC.

I would argue that having a pet NPC is different than trying to have a player's experience in a campaign you are GMing.

Everyone has certain villains and other NPCs who they're tempted to give the benefit of the doubt to, or who are intended to make a certain impression. Sometimes this gets out of hand, sometimes it is a problem, but it isn't an intrinsically bad thing. Playing a memorable, effective villain is not playing a GMPC, because that character doesn't behave as a PC.

A GM PC saves the day. That's what players are meant to do.

Returning to Kazaan's example, what happens if the PCs choose the GMPC's suggestion, and it turns out he was right? What if it was hugely important that he was right? What does that tell us about the character's relationship with the story?

It's not always a failure, but I don't see it contributing anything except for the potential for overshadowing, undercutting, or otherwise competing with the PCs.

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Evil Lincoln wrote:
I would argue that having a pet NPC is different than trying to have a player's experience in a campaign you are GMing.

This would definitely be where our definitions separate.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

What I have seen is the level of dislike for GMPCs is a result of past experiances. I have had several real bad games where the GM's "GMPC" created real issues for both the party and the players.

But I realize others on this forum have had great experiences and thus see them in a different light.

For me, I don't care what label you place on the "thing"; GMPC, main NPC, Pet NPC, etc. What I care about is the impact that NPC has on the game as a whole and the people playing the game.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Quote:
If that name isn't GMPC, what should it be?
Pet NPC.

Mary Sue.

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Not everyone is going to understand that one.

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