Why do you like to GM?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Grand Lodge

Tangent, sorry about your experiences... I wish that you could feel the joy that you give your players, just as I hope that someday I can experience a GM like myself...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:

Tri's right.

A GM cannot properly have a PLAYER character. It is a conflict of interest. One cannot experience the challenge of challenging oneself. In doing so, you distract yourself terribly from your responsibilities to the players.

Sometimes having a likable NPC ally enhances the game, but it's still a non-player character because it is present to enhance the player experience. If you have an NPC that you like and you are not trying to get a player experience from it, then that's an NPC.

If you're trying to wring a player experience out of an NPC, basically running the game for yourself, then that's a GMPC and it is always bad.

Of course, I decided on this terminology arbitrarily, and it's ultimately meaningless. But I am nonetheless prepared to argue very enthusiastically on its behalf.

@TriOmegaZero: You or TOZ should upgrade to mythic. You wouldn't want to fall behind.

I disagree, Mel. I frequently run GMPCs. One reason I do so is my groups often start out small - two players. So I play a character that gives the group a damage sponge or medic and the opportunity to play what they want. These characters take on a life of their own, have quit groups when the group goes in a direction they cannot accept, and generally provide me with a platform by which I can interact with the players on a more personal level and encourage roleplay.

Have any of my GMPCs gone too far? Yes. I realized one GMPC I had created was competing with another player. I realized I'd designed the character specifically to be competition. So I crafted an encounter with the sole purpose of killing the GMPC (Disintegrate spell). It was one of the most intense games I'd run and was the first situation in which the party actually retreated from a fight (and no one else died in that encounter).

These are not NPCs. NPCs are transitory characters who exist for plot purposes. The three NPCs in Wrath of the Righteous are not GMPCs, despite their potential effectiveness in a fight or to continue the story. The four NPCs in Jade Regent are not GMPCs because of the same reason - they exist for the plot.

GMPCs fill holes in the party, provide a method of pointing out things in-game when you need to, and can be fun when run properly. The most important thing to realize is that they are not the hero. The GMPCs shouldn't get Mythic power and are in many ways akin to a Cohort. They are the second fiddle to the players and shouldn't take central stage.

As long as you keep that in mind... then you'll have an effective GMPC.


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Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
Mythic toz attains the ability to split into FOUR different accounts, further confusing his enemies.

If GMing Razor Coast isn't a mythic trial, I don't know what is!


Because no one thinks I'm a god when I'm not.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I originally always preferred the less active role of character, but over time I discovered that within most of my groups, nobody wanted to GM, so I started doing it just so we could play.

Now, 30 or so years after that, I have discovered that as a player I am practically a wallflower; just doing whatever my character should do but often (imho) poorly. While as a GM, I actively attempt to make every character I "play" different and interesting.

When I do get to play, many of the other players notice the dichotomy.


Tangent101 wrote:
Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:

Tri's right.

A GM cannot properly have a PLAYER character. It is a conflict of interest. One cannot experience the challenge of challenging oneself. In doing so, you distract yourself terribly from your responsibilities to the players.

Sometimes having a likable NPC ally enhances the game, but it's still a non-player character because it is present to enhance the player experience. If you have an NPC that you like and you are not trying to get a player experience from it, then that's an NPC.

If you're trying to wring a player experience out of an NPC, basically running the game for yourself, then that's a GMPC and it is always bad.

Of course, I decided on this terminology arbitrarily, and it's ultimately meaningless. But I am nonetheless prepared to argue very enthusiastically on its behalf.

@TriOmegaZero: You or TOZ should upgrade to mythic. You wouldn't want to fall behind.

I disagree, Mel. I frequently run GMPCs. One reason I do so is my groups often start out small - two players. So I play a character that gives the group a damage sponge or medic and the opportunity to play what they want. These characters take on a life of their own, have quit groups when the group goes in a direction they cannot accept, and generally provide me with a platform by which I can interact with the players on a more personal level and encourage roleplay.

Have any of my GMPCs gone too far? Yes. I realized one GMPC I had created was competing with another player. I realized I'd designed the character specifically to be competition. So I crafted an encounter with the sole purpose of killing the GMPC (Disintegrate spell). It was one of the most intense games I'd run and was the first situation in which the party actually retreated from a fight (and no one else died in that encounter).

These are not NPCs. NPCs are transitory characters who exist for plot purposes. The three NPCs in Wrath of the Righteous are not GMPCs, despite their potential effectiveness in a...

Sorry, but you're just describing an NPC. I've done the same in groups I've run, but they always just hang out in the background until their skill sets are needed or like you mentioned "something needs to be pointed out". I've also had great RP experiences with them but that doesn't make them GMPCs.

A true GMPC is the character that the GM has played with as a player (this is the first character I ever played, bro!")or who thinks he can play both sides of the table with some higher level character that he'll use to bully or "only in his mind" guide the characters. There is a fine line, but it's one that exists.


@ tangent : We're not disagreeing in substance, only in terminology.

I reserve the term GMPC for when the GM is trying to *play* in their own game, because it's right there in the acronym. The GM is not a player, and specific troubles arise when they try to get the player experience out of their own game.

Since you were doing your job and considering the players' needs ahead of your own desire to play a character, that by definition means it was a non-player character that you disintegrated.

You can call it whatever you like, but your eloquent explanation has proven to me that the character you killed was an expertly GM'd NPC, not a GMPC. I think the world would be a better place we'd just adopt my arbitrarily selected terminology for things... but this is not the only problem for which that's the case.

@Mythics Only:
Welcome to the club, MYTHIC TOZ. Isn't everything way cooler when you're MYTHIC?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Ah, but I AM playing my own game. I just make sure that my own interests do not supersede that of the group. (One thing I ensure in my Skype-run Runelords game is that the rogue asks "are you sure about that?" when the other players want her to have a magic item. Though seeing the party wants their mobile trap detector to stay alive, yes they're sure! (and I must say that Trap Spotter is SO useful for the GM forced to run an NPC Rogue!))

It's just that as GM, I'm playing more than just the GMPC. I'm also running the townsfolk, the encounters, and even keeping an eye on events going on behind their backs. And sometimes that even includes running a trial combat to determine if an encounter is overpowered or too much of a cakewalk (started that after a pair of Marsh Giants died far too quickly; the only characters who got hurt was the GMPC and one Cohort).

What you seem to be talking about is when the GMPC is a Mary Sue or Marty Stu. Sadly, that's more a sign of poor writing and acting. (And really, isn't that what the GM is? The author of the story, even as the players make up the dialogue and choose what road to walk down?)


I run a gmpc. Sort of. I specifically designed her to play a less then significant role in combat, and know things about the surrounding town, as virtually every other charecter was from out of town, and in a way. They needed a guide.

Gmpc, as far as I'm concerned, is an important npc that plays alongside players. Similarly ranked in importance to the player, but a good GM will make sure they don't step on any toes' and remembers that the real pc's come first. My Character has so far gently pushed in the right direction when the characters couldn't figure out where to go next (very open-world like game. Players... Aren't very good at the concept)

I'm getting the bit i love as a player- a consistent Charecter that actually lasts in a campaign instead of being one of those characters that just die.
(Why do i always wind up with hack-and-slash like players? I wish they would just have some ic conversations instead of letting two of us dialog for a few days.)

Overall, a gmpc should be a blend of a player Charecter and npc. Make sure the player is more important, but still have fun yourself.


Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
20% cooler.

Definition of DMPC:
1: a character that if it was run by a non-DM would be considered a PC; a special kind of Ally (see p. 104 of the 3.5 DMG)
2: (derogatory) any character used by a DM that disrupts the game

Shadow Lodge

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I GMPC for my wife all the time.


I gm to the pain...

The first thing you will lose will be your idea that gm's have authority.
Then your ability to homebrew out races you don't like
Next your need to railroad a pc into a story they are not interested in or can contribute to in any meaninful way.
The next thing you'll lose is the ability to run a campaign that focuses more on your own ideas of how the story should play out instead of it bending and adjusting to the unmitigated free will of the players.
Your ears you keep and I'll tell you why.

So that every shriek of every child will fall mercifully silent
Every babe that weeps at how poorly you've been running things up to this point will gently fade away.
Every woman who see's your houserules and cries out dear got what is this crap!?
Will be quenched and leave satisfied silence echoing in your perfect ears.

I gm to leave your your players wallowing in the freakish misery of your gm style no more.


I GM to drink deeply the tears of murdered PCS and shattered dreams AHAHAHAHAHAHAFDHKagd;kml;22l2332l2;2;l


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Backfromthedeadguy wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:

Tri's right.

A GM cannot properly have a PLAYER character. It is a conflict of interest. One cannot experience the challenge of challenging oneself. In doing so, you distract yourself terribly from your responsibilities to the players.

Sometimes having a likable NPC ally enhances the game, but it's still a non-player character because it is present to enhance the player experience. If you have an NPC that you like and you are not trying to get a player experience from it, then that's an NPC.

If you're trying to wring a player experience out of an NPC, basically running the game for yourself, then that's a GMPC and it is always bad.

Of course, I decided on this terminology arbitrarily, and it's ultimately meaningless. But I am nonetheless prepared to argue very enthusiastically on its behalf.

@TriOmegaZero: You or TOZ should upgrade to mythic. You wouldn't want to fall behind.

I disagree, Mel. I frequently run GMPCs. One reason I do so is my groups often start out small - two players. So I play a character that gives the group a damage sponge or medic and the opportunity to play what they want. These characters take on a life of their own, have quit groups when the group goes in a direction they cannot accept, and generally provide me with a platform by which I can interact with the players on a more personal level and encourage roleplay.

Have any of my GMPCs gone too far? Yes. I realized one GMPC I had created was competing with another player. I realized I'd designed the character specifically to be competition. So I crafted an encounter with the sole purpose of killing the GMPC (Disintegrate spell). It was one of the most intense games I'd run and was the first situation in which the party actually retreated from a fight (and no one else died in that encounter).

These are not NPCs. NPCs are transitory characters who exist for plot purposes. The three NPCs in Wrath of the Righteous are not GMPCs, despite their

...

well now you're just getting into semantics


captain yesterday wrote:
well now you're just getting into semantics

That's where we started, really.

Liberty's Edge

What I enjoy in GMing is inventing/adapting the story to the actions and decisions of the PCs, and when possible with some twist that will surprise them, for good or ill. I also like to have them shine in specific moments they will keep in their memories for a long time.

Of course, I also enjoy seeing my plans unfold perfectly :-))


When I was at University (back in the days of 2nd ed D&D) there were several of us who GMed, but people kept asking me to do it. I also ended up directing more of the Drama Society plays than I acted in. In some respects it is the same skill set.

By that I don't mean that a GM should treat his players like the cast of a play and control their every movement - but you do control the stage on which they get to act. You define the story, and then let them make it their own. You handle the scene changes, and make sure they are as smooth and seamless as possible. You control the chorus of townspeople, gypsies, and soldiers (and a performing elephant - there's got to be a performing elephant...) and make sure they never upstage the main cast.

At the end of the day, you end up in the pub listening to half a dozen divas moan about why *they* didn't get top billing ;)

Besides, now that I'm somewhere-between-thirty-and-dead and have kids I spend far more time world building than I actually get to play games - and I love it. I love creating worlds for my players to explore, and putting them in situations to see how they'll react.

***

On the GM(N)PC debate, I tend to use a bard (usually a halfling, always a coward!) who latches on to the party and follows them around "recording their adventures." It allows me to cover any gaps in the party skill set, gives me a voice in IC planning meetings that can say "are you sure that's a good idea?!" and functions as a buffbot/secondary healer during adventures. I'm not sure where that fits on Evil Lincoln's scale, but it works...


If you're including a character to enhance the campaign, that's an NPC ally.

If you're including a character because you'd rather be a player, or because you always wanted to play a specific PC but nobody will GM for it, that's a GMPC.

Yes, it is merely semantics. To me, GMPC means the GM is trying to be a player in their own campaign, and that's a conflict of interest that usually leads to trouble. It's the "Game Master's Player Character" ... I think that ought to be a contradiction in terms.

Definitions may differ, but if your intent is to improve the game by controlling an ally of the players, that's not a conflict of interest. Trying to gain XP and Levels for a PC of your own, trying to write awesome stories for your PC and then play in them, that's bad. That means you don't really know what the GM's job is.


In general, I agree with Evil Lincoln. However, let me focus on one specific thing:

Rod Millard wrote:
gives me a voice in IC planning meetings that can say "are you sure that's a good idea?!"

In my opinion, the best way to say, "are you sure that's a good idea?!" is to say, "Are you sure that's a good idea?!"

There's no need to have an actual character voice that in the game--the PCs never need to hear that phrase.

When you say it out of character to the group of players, they can frame that as internal--that they, themselves realized it wasn't the best plan, and reconsider it in their own way.

However, if your NPC voices that, the characters react to it, and their own biases for/against that NPC will weigh into it. If they hate the cowardly fool, they'll ignore his fearful doubts. If they love him, they'll maybe put too much stock in what he says.

Or, even worse, if they hate the cowardly fool, but realize you're playing him as your personal PC, they'll listen to him despite not liking or trusting him because you're the one controlling him, which creates a disconnect from an immersion standpoint.

Of course, if you're not concerned with immersion, like I am, then it won't matter.


2 reasons, 3 if I'm being totally honest:

1. because I love creating stuff for the game
2. because I genuinely enjoy leading discussions and, as GM I basically have to be at the center of ALL of them
and 3?

(Looks down sheepishly)

Ego. See, once in a while a player tells me how good I am at it. It doesn't happen as much any more since we've all grown up and our gaming experiences have gotten that much richer, but when a grown player looks at me at the end of a charged session and says "Wow, that was really cool" this is greater validation and higher praise than almost any other. Where is the praise higher? Well I'm married, so never you mind.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I had a game end after one player, who hated my guts but was in the group because her brother and friends were in it, tried to smother the GMPC (who had been knocked unconscious in a fight). I never stopped her. The other players took umbrage at her actions. I think the game just ended from the conflict rather than me not wanting to run a game at that point.

She then GMed her own game and did everything in her power to disempower my best friend who'd taken offense at her actions in my old game. He then proceeded to show her that any attempt of hers to disempower him would be for naught, and the game didn't last all that long. I mean, being a power gamer is bad enough... but being a powergamer GM? That doesn't work very well.

Everyone but her and her brother ended up joining my next campaign. I guess I was a better GM than her. ;)

Perhaps that is ultimately the distinction between a NPC and a GMPC then? If the GM is unwilling to let the NPC die, whether it's the foe of the PCs or an ally, then it's an abusive GMPC situation. I have no problems with letting NPCs die, and have killed them off or removed them from the game when they proved pointless or potentially abusive.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Totally killed off my GMPC when the party left her alone in the building with other evil NPCs. They decided to rez her.

Scarab Sages

I like to DM for many reasons, but the one that stands out in my mind the most is just this:

I'm a pretty smart guy (not the smartest person I know, but I do OK). When I DM there are 4-6 OTHER smart people who are focused on meeting the challenges I set up for them.

At LEAST once per session, these smart people surprise me.

I LOVE that. I love being surprised by my players.

It's just delightful.


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I DM because its fun to tell a good story. Plus, occasionally, rocks do just fall from the sky!


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Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:

If you're including a character to enhance the campaign, that's an NPC ally.

If you're including a character because you'd rather be a player, or because you always wanted to play a specific PC but nobody will GM for it, that's a GMPC.

Yes, it is merely semantics. To me, GMPC means the GM is trying to be a player in their own campaign, and that's a conflict of interest that usually leads to trouble. It's the "Game Master's Player Character" ... I think that ought to be a contradiction in terms.

Definitions may differ, but if your intent is to improve the game by controlling an ally of the players, that's not a conflict of interest. Trying to gain XP and Levels for a PC of your own, trying to write awesome stories for your PC and then play in them, that's bad. That means you don't really know what the GM's job is.

When I am player and not running a game, my intent is to have fun (which is true as a GM as well), but to also improve and enhance the game for everyone else (which is also true when I GM). Does that make my character not really a PC, but merely an NPC ally even though I am not the GM at the time?

See, I don't work under the assumption that just because someone is a player and not a GM, then have to totally self-center egotistical bastards. Likewise, I don't labor under the assumption that if someone is a totally self-center egotistical bastard, they stop being that when they GM.


Rod Millard wrote:
On the GM(N)PC debate, I tend to use a bard...

Bards are great ways to patch gaps in a party, so long as you keep them from the spot light. I began using the last Bard-npc to drag players back over clues they had ignored.

There was an article I read an eon or so back that analyzed Shakespeare's minor character use. The upshot was that they should never be on stage for more than a few minutes. Macbeth's witches are important, but pass from the stage after their schtick, obviously NPCs. Puck keeps popping up, a PC and not a minor character.

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