Tips on how to run GMNPCs


Gamer Life General Discussion

Silver Crusade

I am thinking of putting my hand up to GM part of the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path. However, this may involve running my PC as an NPC, as well as a few others.

How do you usually run GMNPCs? Do you have any tips on how to run GMNPCs as active, contributing, members of a group?


I don't run GMNPCs. I run NPCs. I only add an NPC to the party if they are lacking something necessary. For example if there are only 3 players and I don't want to adjust the adventure, I would add an NPC to fill the missing role. If there is no cleric, then I add a cleric. If there is no front line combatant, I add one. I just run them like I would any other NPC.

That being said, make sure you give them some ranks in Knowledge skills that the party is lacking so you can reasonably have them contribute. You may want to make some skill checks to see if they know anything on the subject. Take notes so you don't have to roll again for the same thing. Have them provide advice when the players are stumped. As DM, you already have a very active role in the game. Make sure the players have an active role too. Don't take away their limelight.


I have been in two groups where we had a DMPC and the two DM's handled them very differently.

In one, the DM basically had the character do what we told him to. It was a halfling rogue. If we wanted a room searched, it was searched. If we wanted a door or lock picked or checked for traps, he did it. He RP'd with us- but the actual campaign and such was for us to do. The rogue more or less just tagged along.

The second played the DMPC like an actual PC. It was a spontaneous spell caster (which did help alot since he didn't have to worry about "memorizing the right spell" and such). He did alot of RP'ing but also tried very hard to make sure that WE were playing the campaign- and not him.

While both had different styles they had one thing in common: they tried very hard not to steal the show from the players. Not ever.
If you are going to DMPC I think you need to keep that in mind.

They are very easy to "do wrong" and very hard to "do right".

-S


Do you have any tips on how to run GMNPCs as active, contributing, members of a group?

Yes.

Don't do it.

If you are fairly new to GMing I would strongly suggest trying to find another way to deal with this. It is very very easy for the DMPC to wreck a game and make all the player's resentful.

What exactly are the PC's lacking? healing? give access to more healing items instead. (The campaign itself grants a fair number of bonus healing items and wands.) Skills? some low level magic items can help here. Knowledge? There are plenty of NPCs in CotCT and in Korvosa that will give aid to the PCs in this regard.

Something else to consider is that with a smaller party they will pick up XP faster and will soon be higher level than is intended for the module. Thus, probably be the second chapter the PCs will be a level higher than intended and should have an easier time of things.

Having GM'd CotCT I can say that if the PCs are smart they can get through the first two chapters without needing much help. Things get a little hairy at the end of chapter two and start to get downright nasty at the end of chapter three. The problems my PCs faced were not usually due to being outmatched, but more to either not paying attention to clues or just barging in and attacking whatever they perceived to be a threat. When they barged in and started blasting everything in sight they got beaten. (Attacking Ramoska at the end of chapter two was a very very bad idea!) When they played smart they had no trouble.

So I would suggest trying to avoid this. You have PLENTY to deal with in running this campaign, especially if you are not familiar with Korvosa. (Get the Guide to Korvosa if at all possible.); adding an extra PC is more work for you.

If you do go with an DMPC I would suggest making him good at the intended role you are filling and not good at pretty much everything else. If you are making a healer, then make him do just that...give him spells and feats that heal and protect, but certainly no offensive abilities.

I found that severely limiting the abilities of a DMPC is the best way to limit their tendency to dominate the game.


Don't do it, unless... you're round-robin DMing.


Bob_Loblaw wrote:

I don't run GMNPCs. I run NPCs. I only add an NPC to the party if they are lacking something necessary. For example if there are only 3 players and I don't want to adjust the adventure, I would add an NPC to fill the missing role. If there is no cleric, then I add a cleric. If there is no front line combatant, I add one. I just run them like I would any other NPC.

That being said, make sure you give them some ranks in Knowledge skills that the party is lacking so you can reasonably have them contribute. You may want to make some skill checks to see if they know anything on the subject. Take notes so you don't have to roll again for the same thing. Have them provide advice when the players are stumped. As DM, you already have a very active role in the game. Make sure the players have an active role too. Don't take away their limelight.

+1, don't have a GMNPC unless you are willing to kill your character, and they are significantly less important to the story than the PC's. If both of those are true, well then it's not really a GMNPC it's just a NPC.

Sovereign Court

I'm not entirely sure where the distinction lies between GMPC and NPC, but I tend to agree with the previous posters that say they can be used positively... Though you have to be careful as the GM.

I've used them a few times, most recently running Legacy of Fire as I only had two players. I used Rayhan the wizard (encountered in Chapter 3) to supplement the party's abilities, and focused on him mostly being a support character (this wasn't too difficult since he was already classed as a diviner). I RP'd with the group, but generally followed their wishes unless it was exceptionally out of character for the NPC to do so.

As was said above, don't have this character try to steal the spotlight; he or she should have a supporting role. Using spells like haste and other relevant buffs (or debuffs on enemies) was a good way to influence the battle indirectly that let the PCs shine a bit brighter with the NPC's help.

Above all though, treat your NPC just like any other NPC: they are less important than PCs and should be treated as such. They can die, and the story should NEVER revolve around them. I rarely say never, but I think this is a valid case.

Oh, also, I've found it easier to run NPCs that have low charisma scores; for example, Bard NPCs can be difficult to play well in a party, especially if the other party members aren't particularly charismatic. Being the party 'face' as an NPC is pretty much impossible.


I think it takes a DM able to compartmentalize his or her thinking, view said character with the cold objectivity he occasionally does the other PCs, and deal with the fact that you might be the instrument of your own demise, so to speak.

None of those are easy.

That said, it can be done, and done exceedingly well. I'm not sure, however, that I'd recommend trying it just out of the gate.

Liberty's Edge

A DMPC can work. If you are careful. But you have to be very, very careful.

DO NOT:
DO NOT have the DMPC solve any problems unless specifically asked by the PC's.
DO NOT have the DMPC pipe up with advice on his own.
DO NOT have the DMPC advance plot.
DO NOT make the DMPC more powerful than any PC.
DO NOT allow the DMPC to do anything well that a PC already does well.

DO:
DO offer advice when the PC's ask for it.
DO fill in a role that nobody wants to play. Trapfinder or healer, for example.
DO make the DMPC weaker than the PC's. Like a cohort.
DO have useful abilities that PC's normally don't take. Like craft skills, item creation feats, skill focus feats, and professional skills.
DO have them contribute in battle, but not dominate.

Scarab Sages

Make the character so that he/she almost never shines. multi-class to give more help to the group without overshadowing anyone.

In addition, don't have your GMPC make decisions for the group. Don't take the best loot unless the rest of the party wants your character to have it.

Try not to take kill-shots from the PCs.

Basically, your character is a side-kick. He/she is NOT a main character and shouldn't out-shine any of the PCs. Build the character for this.


We have a shared world and I just took over DM'ing a section and the group included my character that I use when others DM. After two quick encounters, where I would have stepped in as a PC, I found that I wasn't comfortable running him as a GMNPC. I stopped the game, consulted the group and stated that I didn't feel comfortable running him as part of this adventure. They were fine with setting him to the side during this section. Does this mean he will be behind in terms of experience when I stop GM'ing? Yes it does, but felt this was a fair trade off.

Also this is the first time I have GM'd a game in more than 20 years. The last time I did this was under 1st ed.


The only exceptions to Lyrax's caveats are GMNPCs who become PCs when others are running the game. These may fill their niche as appropriate, and even contribute substantively to plot advancement ... but taking care to keep their knowledge separate from your own when running becomes even more imperative. The temptation to act on information the GMNPC would not possess can become overwhelming, especially if a beloved character is in real peril.

Again, it's a tough tightrope to walk. Some DMs are not capable of it. Other think they are and ain't. That often reveals itself at the worst moment.

Sovereign Court

Chubbs McGee wrote:

I am thinking of putting my hand up to GM part of the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path. However, this may involve running my PC as an NPC, as well as a few others.

How do you usually run GMNPCs? Do you have any tips on how to run GMNPCs as active, contributing, members of a group?

First off ask your players if they want a GMPC, I know that no matter the situation (I don't care if we are running an AP built for a four player team with specific roles)I hate GMPCs I'd rather see the party adapt to the situations and find creative ways to make up for missing roles/PCs. I've had GMs add a GMPC because we were three players instead of four, and didn't even realize that they added a GMPC to take the role I had decided to adapt my character to fill. So first things first ASK YOUR PLAYERS. Then if your players want you to add a GMPC then do so, DON'T JUST ASSUME THAT YOU NEED TO THROW IN A GMPC. For the record Chubbs I'm not yelling at you, you may have asked, I just yell these things out whenever there's a thread about this because I hate hate hate when a GM for whatever reason adds a GMPC without asking or against his fellow players wills

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Chubbs McGee wrote:
How do you usually run GMNPCs? Do you have any tips on how to run GMNPCs as active, contributing, members of a group?

I ran a DMPC through the entirety of Savage Tide (none of my 4 players wanted to be the Cleric). My advice follows:

Only play a DMPC if there is a significant role that needs to be filled that the party doesn't have (a Cleric for healing, a Rogue for trapfinding, etc.). If that's the case, play a DMPC that minimally, but adequately, fills the role.

Do Not play a DMPC based on a character idea you've been dieing to try. You shouldn't DMPC anything that you have personal feelings invested in. You shouldn't be any more attached to a DMPC than you are any of the other NPCs you play during the course of a campaign.

Give them personality and goals, but don't allow them to over-shadow the PCs. They shouldn't be a party leader, but they should be a recognizable party member (perhaps not a vocal one). They definitely shouldn't be a wallflower that does whatever the group wants or a character "played by committee."

Do not use the DMPC to inflict turmoil on the party (the DMPC shouldn't always get the party into trouble; that's what PCs are for).

Don't be afraid to let the DMPC die in battle. However, don't make it a common occurrence as the party will tire of it quickly and wonder if you're taking it easy on them because they're players.

Lastly, make sure everyone is familiar with the DMPC. If their character should die (or a new player join up), the player can use the DMPC until their permanent character is fixed (or introduced).

Good luck!

-Skeld

Sovereign Court

Skeld wrote:
Chubbs McGee wrote:
How do you usually run GMNPCs? Do you have any tips on how to run GMNPCs as active, contributing, members of a group?

I ran a DMPC through the entirety of Savage Tide (none of my 4 players wanted to be the Cleric). My advice follows:

Only play a DMPC if there is a significant role that needs to be filled that the party doesn't have (a Cleric for healing, a Rogue for trapfinding, etc.). If that's the case, play a DMPC that minimally, but adequately, fills the role.

Do Not play a DMPC based on a character idea you've been dieing to try. You shouldn't DMPC anything that you have personal feelings invested in. You shouldn't be any more attached to a DMPC than you are any of the other NPCs you play during the course of a campaign.

Give them personality and goals, but don't allow them to over-shadow the PCs. They shouldn't be a party leader, but they should be a recognizable party member (perhaps not a vocal one). They definitely shouldn't be a wallflower that does whatever the group wants or a character "played by committee."

Do not use the DMPC to inflict turmoil on the party (the DMPC shouldn't always get the party into trouble; that's what PCs are for).

Don't be afraid to let the DMPC die in battle. However, don't make it a common occurrence as the party will tire of it quickly and wonder if you're taking it easy on them because they're players.

Lastly, make sure everyone is familiar with the DMPC. If their character should die (or a new player join up), the player can use the DMPC until their permanent character is fixed (or introduced).

Good luck!

-Skeld

I just want to add that if you're doing this still ask the players. I would be upset if no one was playing a cleric and the GM just added a Cleric because we'll need one. Don't assume what we'll need, if we wind up needing one, we'll look for one and then you can add the GMPC, I'm not saying you didn't do that Skeld, this is just something I can't emphasis enough.

Lots of great campaigns are missing a key role, I've played in and run games without a divine healer, or an arcanist, I've run APs where the party was missing a devoted cleric. PCs will seek out what they need, don't just throw stuff in that the PCs may wind up resenting.


I only have 2 players in my group, so I always have 2 NPCs in the party.

In Rise of the Runelords it was a Cleric/Monk and a Fighter/Magician.

In my current Kingamker campaign, it's a Rogue/Duelist and a Cleric/Holy Vindicator.

I have learned that the less casting I have to deal with, the better. Unfortunately, I seem to get the healer all the time, so some casting is necessary, but managing 2 spell lists is demanding.

Also - the above posts are full of win.

Don't outshine the players, don't solve problems for them, etc.

If possible, the NPC being subservient in some way to the PCs helps with this (a bodyguard, a servant, etc)

It can work, just make sure that in the end, the players have the spotlight.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
lastknightleft wrote:
I just want to add that if you're doing this still ask the players. I would be upset if no one was playing a cleric and the GM just added a Cleric because we'll need one.

Before I rewrote my post, I had a longer lead-in that effectively said this. In my STAP game, when we created characters, the players expressed concern that no one was willing to play a Cleric (we had a Fighter, Wu Jen, Druid, and Rogue). The Druid didn't want to get roped into playing a healbot.

That's why I ended up DMPC'ing a healer. Instead of Cleric, I went with Favored Soul. I went that way for 2 reasons: 1) as a spontaneous caster, I only had to choose spells once/level (and could use the "I only have x spell slots" as an excuse to not take the more powerful Cleric buffs/SoD/SoS spells), and 2) the party would still have to fight undead (no Cleric Undead Auto-Blaster).

Hope that all helps.

-Skeld

Sovereign Court

Skeld wrote:
lastknightleft wrote:
I just want to add that if you're doing this still ask the players. I would be upset if no one was playing a cleric and the GM just added a Cleric because we'll need one.

Before I rewrote my post, I had a longer lead-in that effectively said this. In my STAP game, when we created characters, the players expressed concern that no one was willing to play a Cleric (we had a Fighter, Wu Jen, Druid, and Rogue). The Druid didn't want to get roped into playing a healbot.

That's why I ended up DMPC'ing a healer. Instead of Cleric, I went with Favored Soul. I went that way for 2 reasons: 1) as a spontaneous caster, I only had to choose spells once/level (and could use the "I only have x spell slots" as an excuse to not take the more powerful Cleric buffs/SoD/SoS spells), and 2) the party would still have to fight undead (no Cleric Undead Auto-Blaster).

Hope that all helps.

-Skeld

Yup it does, because your players were able to say yes/no, now then again, when we were building our characters in a game I played in we expressed concerns about not having a primary melee, well when I went home I decided I was gonna gear up my cleric to be the primary melee, took my feats and spells along this line, but when I showed up to the session the GM had a fighter and it wasn't an option to not have the GMPC. This is why I say ask, because if the GM had asked at the start of the session, "hey guys I rolled up this fighter to be in the group do you want me to add him to the party" I would have had the chance to say "no thanks, I want to try and handle it" instead, I had to sit back feeling like my character was second string to what I wanted him to be.


I run GMPCs in our Saturday game, since there are only three players and one of them can only make it half the time.

This often means having only two players on the table, and that doesn't cut it, especially if you're a lazy bastard like me who runs adventure paths instead of making his own adventures.

So I run GMPCs.

My rules:

  • The GMPC will be what the party needs most. That means the GMPC will cover the left-over bases. For the last three campaigns (which were really all the campaigns I used this from the start) (s)he was a priest, being the primary (and virtually only) healer the party had.

    You want to tell the players beforehand that the GMPC will be like that, so they don't feel like they have to play something just so that base is covered.

  • The GMPC will support in fights (unless the encounter set-up requires him to take more direct steps) and will be mostly silent out of combat. It's important that the actual PCs have the spotlight to themselves. There's always the danger of creating a Mary-Sue, so it's probably best to err on the side of caution.

    Of course, the GMPC will offer advice when asked by players, but under normal circumstances, the interaction should be mostly between PCs and NPCs (i.e. non-party members).

  • The GMPC can act as the GM's mouthpiece. This is an exception from the GMPC being silent unless asked first: If the players do something that will get them into trouble and you want to warn them, and it's not something like a paladin wandering close to an alignment shift or loss of powers, you can let the GMPC speak up and tell them that this is not a good idea.

    You should do this only if you'd warn them even without the GMPC, if you'd go ahead and tell them "You know that if you do this, things will probably become really... "interesting", with the three dots and quotation marks and everything, if you know what I mean!" This way, you can warn their characters in-game.

    This can also work as reminding PCs of things they forgot and you want to remind them of, like the name of the captain of the watch or something like that.

  • Have a GMPC only when you're short on players, don't want them to run more than one character at once (which is understandable, since that detracts from being in character), don't like rules like gestalt (understandable, too), and rather have a full roster than adjust the game to do without basic party roles filled.

  • Lend the GMPC to guest players. If you have someone who only plays occasionally and don't want to introduce a character for just one session (especially if you're in the middle of something and introducing a character now would not make too much sense), you hand them the sheet and let them play the character.

    This does require a little bit of suspension of disbelief, since the temporarily full-ranking PC will be more active and participating than before, but that's nothing you can't live with usually.

    Alternately, if you have a semi-regular player in an otherwise full group, you can turn his character into a GMPC whenever he's not around. In that case, you should probably keep his personality intact, maybe tune it down a bit. And you should probably get in touch with major decisions (what to do with large sums of money or when the party levels up.)


  • "The only winning move is not to play [a GMPC]."


    Another bit of advice for running a DMPC, if you choose to do so:

    Give them a level or two in something unrelated to their primary role.

    For example, you can give a healbot cleric a level or two of say ranger. This impacts the cleric spellcasting and keeps it from being able to overshadow the PCs. Or give an NPC rogue a level of sorcerer. Even NPC class levels can be used to keep the power level of the DMPC below that of the PCs.

    In otherwords, UNoptimize the DMPC.

    One side benefit to doing this is that you can come up with some really interesting combinations that would not normally be played due to the poor optimization. Cleric of Nethys/Oracle of Lore for instance. Or Ranger/Cleric of Erastil. Expert/Wizard.

    One potential drawback to this though is that you can end up with a character who has lots and lots of little abilities and bonuses to keep track of. So try to avoid complicated combinations, such as something like a Alchemist/Oracle.

    If while playing a DMPC you find that it is staying on level with the PCs, giving a level or two of a NPC class such as expert or adept can help slow down the DMPCs power.


    Lyrax wrote:

    A DMPC can work. If you are careful. But you have to be very, very careful.

    DO NOT:
    DO NOT have the DMPC solve any problems unless specifically asked by the PC's.
    DO NOT have the DMPC pipe up with advice on his own.
    DO NOT have the DMPC advance plot.
    DO NOT make the DMPC more powerful than any PC.
    DO NOT allow the DMPC to do anything well that a PC already does well.

    DO:
    DO offer advice when the PC's ask for it.
    DO fill in a role that nobody wants to play. Trapfinder or healer, for example.
    DO make the DMPC weaker than the PC's. Like a cohort.
    DO have useful abilities that PC's normally don't take. Like craft skills, item creation feats, skill focus feats, and professional skills.
    DO have them contribute in battle, but not dominate.

    Pretty much this.

    And what others have said about being prepared to let the character die, and making sure the players want the GMNPC around.


    Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

    Since it appears that I've had rather different experiences on the GM-PC front than a lot of the others in here, I figure I may as well add my thoughts for the sake of completeness...

    Within the past year, my local games had died off due to the incompatiblities of people's work schedules. When my D&D/PfRPG cravings got strong enough, I finally decided to see if play-by-posts could fill that need for me and thus far they have. I ended up participating in an 'RP Tavern' called Limbo for a couple months during which time the focus was not really on combat or character builds (there was a cap of level 2 agreed upon), but rather upon character interactions.

    Every now and then, one of the players would spin-off a story arc and assume the role of GM, but the game itself did not even have a dedicated GM. Both everyone and no one ran it. Eventually, I ended up joining with a couple characters that I've had for 15+ years, reset to 1st level. Thru interactions and such, other characters got invited to go on trips with her which ended up spawning some pretty cool sidetreks.

    The result was that I found a good group of a few players with similar levels of interest and commitment. When we decided we wanted to play a game together, it was only natural for my PC (a sort of rebel noblewoman) to 'recruit' some of her newfound friends into undertaking a dungeoncrawl challenge with her. It was a completely plausible use of a GM-PC and an interesting variant on the tried-and-true trope of a wealthy character hiring a group of experts for a task. The key difference here was that it was sort of crossed with the whole bodyguard trope.

    That game (we played thru Crypt of the Everflame) ended up going really well and all of our characters segued into the current game we're playing. In essence, rather that approaching the GM-PC 'problem' from the standpoint of trying to make them invisible, we went the exact opposite way.

    As a 'power player' who is the target of assassins and other plots that are still being revealed, there is a genuine need there for the party. Whether it is the emotional support of the charismatic mage who is like a sister to her, the spiritual support and frankness of the cleric, the comedic relief of the fighter/rogue, or the strong, silent support of her shapeshifting bodyguard, all of the characters have a sense of belonging, friendship, and esprit du corp.

    Do I think that GM-PCs are for every group? Oh hell no! 20 years ago I tried using them and it was an utter disaster! Yet given the right group, it can easily be seamless. The fact that all of us were essentially peers in a GM-less game prior to this could have been the key, all I know is that for us it works.

    With that in mind, here are some of the things that I try to keep in mind (remember this is in the context of a PbP, I don't know that I could pull this off in a face-to-face game):

    Be cognizant of the fact that the possibility exists for players to feel like they are taking 2nd-place to the GM-PC. So long as you are aware of that, you can work to ensure it doesn't happen.

    Tailor the GM-PC's combat style and abilities so that playing them in a natural, internally-consistent fashion better enables the other characters to shine! In my case, the GM-PC (Princess Alis Kirmoon) is a bardic priestess of the goddess of passion and inspiration. Keeping morale up and inspiring others to achieve their potential is what she lives for.

    Her bodyguard even helped the reckless young princess to realize that everyone else's asses are on-the-line if she gets killed. Helping to teach her the responsibilities and limitations of her station was a meaningful and memorable growth experience for the party. It also reinforces the need for the PCs to be utilized to their fullest so that they are the ones driving the game even if the overarching plot is based around helping her on a peace-keeping mission to a trouble colony. (Lead-in to Serpent's Skull AP.)

    Another way in which a GM-PC can result in a big win for the party is if the game takes place in a homebrew setting. A GM-PC who hails from the land in which the adventure takes place can be a great mechanism for helping the party to learn about the world. A knowledgeable mage, a cosmopolitan bard, a streetwise rogue, or a well-traveled hunter... just as they could be viable NPC guides, they can also work as GM-PCs.

    When it comes to treasure distribution, having a GM-PC who is independently wealthy and doesn't need to dip into the party's treasure can be a big plus. Even in an RP-heavy game such as our, there's still plenty of killing (or capturing) baddies and taking their stuff. Keep your hands off the treasure! If the other characters think something would suit you and they want you to have it, then cool. Otherwise, like in our case, the GM-PC can simply keep pace by making use of the same 'per diem' they use to pay for the party's fluff-based expenses to keep pace with the wealth-by-level guidelines.

    While it's not as big of a deal in a PbP game where things move at a different pace, in a face to face game, make certain your GM-PC isn't the one sitting there having all of the conversations with the NPCs! Not only will you lose your voice, but the players' eyes will glaze over and everyone will end up playing with their iPhones or Droids while they wait for 'their turn' to come back around. ;)

    Should the GM-PC be the one who hired the party, avoid the temptation to micro-manage! While a certain amount of nudging or decision-making might logically fall to such a character, approach it from the standpoint that they have objectives or obstacles that need to be met or bypassed, but leave how to implement it up to the players.

    By the same token, you must absolutely avoid having a GM-PC act upon GM-only knowledge. That's not to say they should blindly march themselves and the party into every last pit-trap or ambush, but make their rolls and checks the same as you would expect anyone else to. I actually have been working on a list of PbP conventions or 'best practices' that I adhere to as GM to minimize even the appearance that I could be misbehaving. A lot of these might be irrelevant for a face-to-face game, but for a PbP we've found them quite handy. They are less house rules than how we go about things.

    Lastly, remember to never be the Mary Sue. Ensure that there exists a genuine and mutual need between all the PCs, GM or otherwise. If the GM-PC can do no wrong and outshines everyone else, then it just becomes an exercise of you using 3-4 other people to stroke your ego. Don't be that guy! When all else fails, just keep in mind the Golden Rule of RPGs: if everyone is having fun, then you're doing it right! :)

    Hope this is helpful to you. Feel free to check out my profile/lists if you care to see how we've managed this in the PbP games I've been GMing the past several months.

    Liberty's Edge

    That was a very good, very thought-provoking post, Laithoron.

    The trouble with a GMPC is that a poorly-played GMPC can completely ruin a game. They can be great tools, but it's so easy to ruin other peoples' fun that the GM who uses one must not do so frivolously or wantonly.

    Silver Crusade

    Thank you for all the great advice! I have a lot to consider before my first session.

    Currently, we have two PCs with Leadership. Both have cohorts in the group (the arcane duellist/rogue has a fighter, the paladin of Abadar has a cleric of Abadar).

    However, our paladin will be away from the group temporarily and this leaves a spot open for our main fighter. In this case, my PC will fill this role. I may also have occasion to play, so it will be good to have him around. The paladin will become an NPC temporarily, but may be delayed in Korvosa before following his friends into the Cinderlands.

    I am also planning on having Trinia Sabor accompany the group to the Cinderlands. This means three NPCs in the group with the two cohorts.

    Based on the advice here, I am reading through the adventure and trying to plan out as much as I can before we actually start. Currently, I am only GMing Book 4 of Curse of the Crimson Throne and will hand over to our primary GM for Books 5 & 6.


    Nameless wrote:


    Oh, also, I've found it easier to run NPCs that have low charisma scores; for example, Bard NPCs can be difficult to play well in a party, especially if the other party members aren't particularly charismatic. Being the party 'face' as an NPC is pretty much impossible.

    That's one problem I've never encountered. I've always made a point that, whenever I've got an NPC tagging along with the party, he's got some problems.

    For example, a high charisma NPC might be a noble with men and lands and such, but be a few levels under the party, be of some help, but at the same time be the kind of 'dumbass noble' who tends to open his 'witty charming mouth' at the wrong times and just makes the game a bit more enjoyable and unpredictable.

    One meeting he could sway things in their favor, and get the party aid or provisions (including potential magical gear), while another time he could get the group attacked by should-be-neutral-parties, challenged to a duel (the mechanics of which are generally skipped for a quick description to keep the story moving and minimize his spotlight stealing) or any other number of random things.

    The key, in my experience, to running a DMPC, is to make said character part of the support structure of the campaign. He could be the background character who casts buffs and healings, he could be the face that the party babysits because he's useful about as often as troublesome, and he has authority/knowledge/contacts they need. He could be any number of things, so long as the party are the stars of the show.


    Sethvir wrote:

    We have a shared world and I just took over DM'ing a section and the group included my character that I use when others DM. After two quick encounters, where I would have stepped in as a PC, I found that I wasn't comfortable running him as a GMNPC. I stopped the game, consulted the group and stated that I didn't feel comfortable running him as part of this adventure. They were fine with setting him to the side during this section. Does this mean he will be behind in terms of experience when I stop GM'ing? Yes it does, but felt this was a fair trade off.

    Also this is the first time I have GM'd a game in more than 20 years. The last time I did this was under 1st ed.

    Um... you're GMing. That's a huge investment of time and resources and effort (moreso for some GM styles than others), how and why is it not fair to assume that your character has been adventuring independently in the time that you GM, and will be able to rejoin the party with equivalent xp and level appropriate wealth that he's earned on his own?


    Chubbs McGee wrote:

    I am thinking of putting my hand up to GM part of the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path. However, this may involve running my PC as an NPC, as well as a few others.

    How do you usually run GMNPCs? Do you have any tips on how to run GMNPCs as active, contributing, members of a group?

    1) The GMNPC should NOT compete in any way with the pcs. If There is a rogue, he is not a rogue. If there is a wizard he is not a sorcerer. He should only take a role that is not being remotely occupied, usually the healer.

    2) The GMNPC should do as little as possible, otherwise its like shadowboxing with your own adventure.

    3) If you want to run your own character, get someone else to dm once in a while. DMNPC's don't go over well with other party members.

    Dark Archive

    Chubbs McGee wrote:

    I am thinking of putting my hand up to GM part of the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path. However, this may involve running my PC as an NPC, as well as a few others.

    How do you usually run GMNPCs? Do you have any tips on how to run GMNPCs as active, contributing, members of a group?

    The problem here is that PCs are attention hogs. They want to be the ONLY active, contributing members of the group. So if you've got a GMPC, they're going to resent him no matter what you do.

    There are a couple ways around this. What I usually do is just make the PCs one level higher than the adventure path calls for; this balances most encounters and allows a smaller group to succeed.

    Another way is to just have them play the adventure path as-is, at the correct level. I don't know if this is a good option for your group; mine tends to powergame, so I'm usually okay doing this. If you choose to do this, you could always nudge your players toward taking Leadership when they reach a high enough level; this gives them an extra party member or two who are lower-level and thus not in the spotlight as often. If you run a cohort, they can be a buffer--or they can be tactically controlled by the players.
    (This has worked for me several times; a cleric is always a good NPC because you get the personality and add to the party balance without being the one to kill the monsters. The game I'm currently running has a fighter cohort, but I let the bard control his combat actions even though I handle his speech; this gives the bard something combat-y to do while making my life easier.)

    Or, you can check out the NPCs that already exist in the adventure path. If you're doing Crimson Throne, there is a dwarf at the beginning who starts as an enemy, but if played correctly could surrender to the party and become an asset. There is also

    Spoiler:
    The fugitive city guard at All the World's Meat

    who would probably be happy to help the party on the sly if they're nice to him and promise not to turn him in. And
    Spoiler:
    Grau the guard will be eternally grateful if they help him while he's drunk; he might accompany them on missions if asked. Cressida Croft

    might even be able to assist on a particularly difficult mission.


    malebranche wrote:

    The problem here is that PCs are attention hogs. They want to be the ONLY active, contributing members of the group. So if you've got a GMPC, they're going to resent him no matter what you do.

    That may be your experience, but it by no means holds across the board.

    I've played with and run for groups such as you describe. Some, though, enjoy having roles filled and in addition enjoy those GMPCs serving as full party members. Others don't mind having duplicate classes within their own party; to them, it adds spice to role-play and allows for additional tactical options. A few parties even (horror of horrors) prefer to have a GMPC function as the party leader. He or she makes decisions that are best for both profit and unity, all while keeping them on the DM's if not designated then preferred path.

    Any of the above are viable, so long as a good time is had by all.

    The key is this: Do not force a GMPC on the players. If they're OK with it, it's an excellent option.

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