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Haven
2010-09-29, 04:50 PM
Hey, so I just joined a campaign with a DM who is great in a lot of aspects--fun guy, really enthusiastic about running a game and getting players into his story, very good at organizing people, and so on. He doesn't have the best grasp of the system, which is fine--I'm not all that experienced with it either, but I'm the one who knows it best and everyone seems to be okay with it (I do feel kind of like That Guy pointing out mistakes and stuff all the time though). But there are a few things which are more fundamental he doesn't seem to get, and I think I need some help making convincing arguments against them.

First, he's encouraging player-against-player "duels"--to the point where one guy who was thinking of changing characters decided not to because his warden beat the swordmage he made in a one-on-one fight. It's fine when it doesn't mean anything and it's just for fun, but more worryingly, our DM made a character just to "duel" with, and declared he was going to use the guy in the game--I'm not sure if he meant as an ally or an enemy, but neither way bodes really well. For the latter: enemies aren't supposed to be made with the same rules as PCs in 4th, right? What's the best way to illustrate that? For the former: what's the best argument to be made against DMPCs?

The other thing that worries me a lot is that, when we parleyed with an NPC, he tried to have it roll Intimidate against us. When I told him you're not supposed to do that, he said "Well, yeah, but it's Dark Sun", which--okay, Athas is hardcore, but that doesn't really change the fundamental that in roleplaying, you decide how your character reacts. Eventually, he decided not to go through with it, but I'm not sure I made the point as well as I could have. How do I fully explain the problems with this if it comes up again?

Last, there's one thing which he's probably right about, and I don't think I want to challenge it, but I'd like to hear an opinion from people who know more about it. He claims that the power source books are all overpowered, and at first we were only going to have the first PHB to choose from. Which would have sucked, given that we're in Athas, and having Primal and Psionic characters is kinda important there. He changed his mind a little later and decided to let us use stuff from all three PHBs. I had made my character first though, so I ended up being the only one with a PHB 1 class--I'm a little worried that without Martial Power, my two-carrikal ranger is going to end up lagging behind the gouge-wielding Barbarian. I hear rangers are considered really powerful, but looking at our encounter powers--my "Two-Fanged Strike" (two 1d8+str, then +wis if both hit, plus 1d6 for quarry) doesn't look that great compared to his "Avalanche Strike" (6d6+str+con). Anyway, I just wanted to know how much sense allowing up to PHB3 but not the power source books makes--I have no idea whether or not that works.

So far things are great aside from that; I'm just worried about these specific issues. There's probably an easy way to resolve them--the DM's a reasonable guy, not averse to taking player input, and he knows I know the mechanics better than him. But I'm not quite an expert myself, so I need to figure out how best to discuss all this. Thanks in advance for any help.

Nu
2010-09-29, 05:12 PM
Hey, so I just joined a campaign with a DM who is great in a lot of aspects--fun guy, really enthusiastic about running a game and getting players into his story, very good at organizing people, and so on. He doesn't have the best grasp of the system, which is fine--I'm not all that experienced with it either, but I'm the one who knows it best and everyone seems to be okay with it (I do feel kind of like That Guy pointing out mistakes and stuff all the time though). But there are a few things which are more fundamental he doesn't seem to get, and I think I need some help making convincing arguments against them.

First, he's encouraging player-against-player "duels"--to the point where one guy who was thinking of changing characters decided not to because his warden beat the swordmage he made in a one-on-one fight. It's fine when it doesn't mean anything and it's just for fun, but more worryingly, our DM made a character just to "duel" with, and declared he was going to use the guy in the game--I'm not sure if he meant as an ally or an enemy, but neither way bodes really well. For the latter: enemies aren't supposed to be made with the same rules as PCs in 4th, right? What's the best way to illustrate that? For the former: what's the best argument to be made against DMPCs?

The other thing that worries me a lot is that, when we parleyed with an NPC, he tried to have it roll Intimidate against us. When I told him you're not supposed to do that, he said "Well, yeah, but it's Dark Sun", which--okay, Athas is hardcore, but that doesn't really change the fundamental that in roleplaying, you decide how your character reacts. Eventually, he decided not to go through with it, but I'm not sure I made the point as well as I could have. How do I fully explain the problems with this if it comes up again?

Last, there's one thing which he's probably right about, and I don't think I want to challenge it, but I'd like to hear an opinion from people who know more about it. He claims that the power source books are all overpowered, and at first we were only going to have the first PHB to choose from. Which would have sucked, given that we're in Athas, and having Primal and Psionic characters is kinda important there. He changed his mind a little later and decided to let us use stuff from all three PHBs. I had made my character first though, so I ended up being the only one with a PHB 1 class--I'm a little worried that without Martial Power, my two-carrikal ranger is going to end up lagging behind the gouge-wielding Barbarian. I hear rangers are considered really powerful, but looking at our encounter powers--my "Two-Fanged Strike" (two 1d8+str, then +wis if both hit, plus 1d6 for quarry) doesn't look that great compared to his "Avalanche Strike" (6d6+str+con). Anyway, I just wanted to know how much sense allowing up to PHB3 but not the power source books makes--I have no idea whether or not that works.

So far things are great aside from that; I'm just worried about these specific issues. There's probably an easy way to resolve them--the DM's a reasonable guy, not averse to taking player input, and he knows I know the mechanics better than him. But I'm not quite an expert myself, so I need to figure out how best to discuss all this. Thanks in advance for any help.

A few things:

A) 4E rules are really not designed for PvP, Dark Sun or no. Powers tend to do a lot of damage relative to player HP, because monsters have much more HP than players. Likewise, things like Intimidate are not designed for PvP use.

B) I think simply dismissing all power books as "overpowered" is rather narrow-minded and simplifying the issue. Surely, most classes are going to end up less powerful without the power books, which seems to be counterproductive in Dark Sun, where encounters are supposed to be harsher.

C) I don't think you're looking at the big picture in comparing Avalanche Strike and Two-Fanged Strike (Off-Hand Strike is better pretty much, but if you don't have access to Martial Power...). Sure, Avalanche Strike looks straight-up more powerful, but you need to consider that it basically gives all enemies free hits on the Barbarian for the next round. Furthermore, ranger powers which give you multiple attacks really shine the more static damage bonuses you get, because you get to potentially apply them multiple times. This goes for both rangers and barbarians, but rangers get their multiple attack powers much earlier and much more often. Also, rangers tend to stick to powers that grant them attacks outside of their turn or as a minor action, or at least give multiple attacks, of which the barbarian has less.

D) I don't really see the rationale that "power books are overpowered." I think it's rather silly. Paladins aren't even very playable as a defender without Divine Power, for example, and for the Fighter, Martial Power 1&2 add more versatility than power. Anyway, I suspect the DM is just being lazy about bookkeeping here, so I'd challenge that if possible.

Doug Lampert
2010-09-29, 05:18 PM
First, he's encouraging player-against-player "duels"--to the point where one guy who was thinking of changing characters decided not to because his warden beat the swordmage he made in a one-on-one fight. It's fine when it doesn't mean anything and it's just for fun, but more worryingly, our DM made a character just to "duel" with, and declared he was going to use the guy in the game--I'm not sure if he meant as an ally or an enemy, but neither way bodes really well. For the latter: enemies aren't supposed to be made with the same rules as PCs in 4th, right? What's the best way to illustrate that? For the former: what's the best argument to be made against DMPCs?

Enemies shouldn't be made with PC rules in 4th ed.

PC types have LOTS more healing available, but substantially fewer HP. This works well when the PC party is expected to win any short battle, the healing powers are effectively extra HP. For enemies? You're far more complicated than a monster needs to be, and you die to easily to be elite, but have too many powers to be standard.

DMPCs are only bad when they're bad. There are lots of people who claim otherwise, but IME they do so by "No True Scotsman" methods, of redefining DMPC to not include the healbot who tags along. Or the helpful NPC hireling. Or the useful NPC companion. Or anything else that's not whatever they object to.

The main problem with a DMPC is that the DM has enough on his plate already, if the PCs really need an ally or should have one from story considerations he should normally just hand the NPC to a PC as a temporary secondary character.


The other thing that worries me a lot is that, when we parleyed with an NPC, he tried to have it roll Intimidate against us. When I told him you're not supposed to do that, he said "Well, yeah, but it's Dark Sun", which--okay, Athas is hardcore, but that doesn't really change the fundamental that in roleplaying, you decide how your character reacts. Eventually, he decided not to go through with it, but I'm not sure I made the point as well as I could have. How do I fully explain the problems with this if it comes up again?

I've rolled intimidate against lots of PCs. I roll intimidate, I tell them what it came out as. And I let them roleplay how intimidated that makes them.

Typically the response is that one of the PCs intimidates back and does it better, but if they ever decide to just surrender I won't stop them. The roll makes a fine shorthand for how intimidating this NPC is supposed to be without me needing to get out the props and hire a crew of actors.


Last, there's one thing which he's probably right about, and I don't think I want to challenge it, but I'd like to hear an opinion from people who know more about it. He claims that the power source books are all overpowered, and at first we were only going to have the first PHB to choose from. Which would have sucked, given that we're in Athas, and having Primal and Psionic characters is kinda important there. He changed his mind a little later and decided to let us use stuff from all three PHBs. I had made my character first though, so I ended up being the only one with a PHB 1 class--I'm a little worried that without Martial Power, my two-carrikal ranger is going to end up lagging behind the gouge-wielding Barbarian. I hear rangers are considered really powerful, but looking at our encounter powers--my "Two-Fanged Strike" (two 1d8+str, then +wis if both hit, plus 1d6 for quarry) doesn't look that great compared to his "Avalanche Strike" (6d6+str+con). Anyway, I just wanted to know how much sense allowing up to PHB3 but not the power source books makes--I have no idea whether or not that works.

You're a ranger. Your attack method is "I twin strike it. I twin strike it again. I twin strike it some more. Have I mentioned twin strike?"

Your best encounters and dailies are the ones that take a minor action or can be used as an immediate interupt or the ones that look like twin strike but slightly better. But your core damage method is twin strike and that's in the PHBI.

Daze
2010-09-29, 05:27 PM
For the former: what's the best argument to be made against DMPCs?
The best argument is always fun and balance. As in: "This gaming system was not balanced with PC/DM PVP in mind. The damage/hitpoint/healing difference is too great.
Also, DMPC's are a bit exploitative most of the times as you (the DM) always knows whats going to happen, in turn that makes it less fun for us players. Lets us have our own successes and failures without assistance please."


The other thing that worries me a lot is that, when we parleyed with an NPC, he tried to have it roll Intimidate against us. When I told him you're not supposed to do that, he said "Well, yeah, but it's Dark Sun", which--okay, Athas is hardcore, but that doesn't really change the fundamental that in roleplaying, you decide how your character reacts.
I do see your point here somewhat. RP is the central point to any good gaming campaign (usually) and it really sucks when that power is taken out of your hands and left to arbitrary dice rolls.
However... I am also going to disagree with you on this particular example. "Intimidate" in my opinion is a valid imposition on a player's RP. Simply because I dont think many players will ever actually RP being intimidated on their own(we all act as heroic/infamous/[email protected] goodies/baddies dont we?).
For instance... you stumble into a dragon's cave. Guess what? Your making a saving throw against dragon fear. This can easily be applied to any other character or creature who is particulary menacing.
Look at it as a way to enhance RP, not limit it.


Last, there's one thing which he's probably right about, and I don't think I want to challenge it, but I'd like to hear an opinion from people who know more about it. He claims that the power source books are all overpowered, and at first we were only going to have the first PHB to choose from. Which would have sucked, given that we're in Athas, and having Primal and Psionic characters is kinda important there.

Well you have your argument right there in terms of psionics. It's absolutely a MUST on Athas. No exceptions. Every bit of source material (or video games even) on Dark Sun have included psionics.

As far as power source books being overpowered... well, he is kind of right in a sense. If the DM feels certain classes break his game, then it's his right to exclude them. A good way around this if there's a certain char you wanna play is to roll one up in such a way that it's not too uber. Maybe he'd bend a bit then.
PC power is always an issue in RP games... some GM's enjoy running high power games, some lower power. Same goes for players. I can do either personally, but tend to enjoy high power games with tougher challenges/foes.

Keep in mind a DM puts a lot of effort into designing a game world (hopefully!). Some aspects are simply at his/her discretion. As long as your reasonable in your input though, the DM should allow some exceptions or alterations.

cdrcjsn
2010-09-29, 05:32 PM
From just your post, it seems that your DM has a poor grasp of what makes a fun game from other people's perspectives and that he has a poor understanding of what is mechanically balanced.

That, or he is 12 years old.

Xefas
2010-09-29, 05:33 PM
I'm not sure if he meant as an ally or an enemy, but neither way bodes really well. For the latter: enemies aren't supposed to be made with the same rules as PCs in 4th, right? What's the best way to illustrate that? For the former: what's the best argument to be made against DMPCs?

In short, just tell him these things. Say "In 4th edition D&D, enemies aren't supposed to be made with the same rules as PCs." if he challenges that, point to the monster creation rules in the DMG. I'm pretty sure it has a passage about this in there somewhere (probably around the "adding a character class template to a monster so you don't build it using the same rules as PCs" section).

For DMPCs...well, that seems to be a mistake every DM makes at least once. It can be hard to tell someone, but the best thing to do is to just get it over with. "DMPCs are nearly universally a harbinger of arbitrary contrivances that only serve to highlight the fact that you'd rather be playing than DMing, and in that pursuit you are willing to sacrifice at least the agency, and at most the happiness of your players. DMPCs cannot be done well. If you think you did one well, your players were just too shy to tell you it sucked. No, you are not the exception. They are all bad. All of them. Even the one your players insisted was fun and awesome - they were just being nice or willfully ignorant for your sake."


The other thing that worries me a lot is that, when we parleyed with an NPC, he tried to have it roll Intimidate against us. When I told him you're not supposed to do that, he said "Well, yeah, but it's Dark Sun", which--okay, Athas is hardcore, but that doesn't really change the fundamental that in roleplaying, you decide how your character reacts. Eventually, he decided not to go through with it, but I'm not sure I made the point as well as I could have. How do I fully explain the problems with this if it comes up again?

While I personally disagree with the D&D philosophy of "No social skills on PCs" with every fiber of my being, and find it to be indicative of one of the single greatest shortcomings of the system as a whole, this isn't about me - it's about you and your group. Just tell him that social stuff is not something covered very well by any edition of D&D. D&D is, fundamentally as a system, a series of mechanisms for resolving combat. There are other games that do social intrigue and stuff. You play D&D if you want to tell a story about a small wandering squad of heavily armed violent hobos murdering everything they see and getting better at Bluff by stabbing rats. D&D does not handle "social-fuing" the player characters very well - it makes it feel cheap and uninteresting; like your character's motives don't matter. Tell him that.

(If you want to see a system do social combat right, by the way, check out Burning Wheel.)

Tyndmyr
2010-09-29, 05:36 PM
So far things are great aside from that; I'm just worried about these specific issues. There's probably an easy way to resolve them--the DM's a reasonable guy, not averse to taking player input, and he knows I know the mechanics better than him. But I'm not quite an expert myself, so I need to figure out how best to discuss all this. Thanks in advance for any help.

Well, the good news is that none of those problems are unique to 4th ed. In other words, there's been a LOT of previous posters needing help with DMs that are stuck on one game type, into DMPCs, or quite restrictive on splatbooks. Google or the forum search should get you quite a lot of material to back up your points when discussing them with him.

Balance and fun are excellent points, though. The game was designed to be most enjoyable when played within certain parameters. Going far outside them, such as using it as a duel system, with DMPCs, risks missing out on much of the game. He might not be very familiar with DMing, as these are pretty common issues for newer DMs(and don't worry, these issues don't sound as bad as some are. A few true horror stories out there.).

Cubey
2010-09-29, 05:37 PM
For DMPCs:

There is only so much focus that a player can give to the game. Same for the DM - but it is the DM's responsibility to take care of the whole party, and the rest of the world and plot to that. If the DM has a character they take care of as if they were a player and that was their PC, then how much attention do they have left for the rest of the game? Not a lot, I tell you.

Tyndmyr
2010-09-29, 05:39 PM
For DMPCs...well, that seems to be a mistake every DM makes at least once. It can be hard to tell someone, but the best thing to do is to just get it over with. "DMPCs are nearly universally a harbinger of arbitrary contrivances that only serve to highlight the fact that you'd rather be playing than DMing, and in that pursuit you are willing to sacrifice at least the agency, and at most the happiness of your players. DMPCs cannot be done well. If you think you did one well, your players were just too shy to tell you it sucked. No, you are not the exception. They are all bad. All of them. Even the one your players insisted was fun and awesome - they were just being nice or willfully ignorant for your sake."


The above is correct. If a DM really, really wants to play, consider rotating the DM job around. After all, if everyone prefers to play, taking turns is a reasonably fair solution. I suppose you could do pure duel games without a DM at all, but that's rather limiting.

WitchSlayer
2010-09-29, 05:43 PM
I have an NPC traveling with my party regularly, but only because they needed a healer and they were nearly dying quite a bit (Thanks to the monk who continually ran in between all enemies), I don't consider her a DMPC as much as an NPC, anyway, to the topic:

Sucks.

Daze
2010-09-29, 06:01 PM
I have an NPC traveling with my party regularly, but only because they needed a healer and they were nearly dying quite a bit (Thanks to the monk who continually ran in between all enemies), I don't consider her a DMPC as much as an NPC, anyway


That to me is the proper reason for letting a DMPC hang around: party imbalance. The only other somewhat acceptable reason is if a particular tough thread of story comes along and the PC's need some guidance or assistance.
Otherwise, it's just the DM wishing he/she was a player.

true_shinken
2010-09-29, 06:04 PM
That to me is the proper reason for letting a DMPC hang around: party imbalance. The only other somewhat acceptable reason is if a particular tough thread of story comes along and the PC's need some guidance or assistance.
Otherwise, it's just the DM wishing he/she was a player.

Not at all, sometimes it's a story thing. Maybe the party hired a tracker - if they get a random encounter, will the monsters just ignore that Ranger sitting right here? Will the Ranger just ignore the monsters?

Katana_Geldar
2010-09-29, 06:08 PM
Running monsters is hard enough with running another PC as well. a DMPC is a beginners mistake, but we all make these.

And player abilities in 4e are WAAAAY to overpowered to be used against each other. And above all, a DM should never encourage players to fight each other unless you are playing a system that encourages this (like Paranoia). It's not just bad mechanically, but brings about bad group dynamics. People can take it personally.

Daze
2010-09-29, 06:10 PM
Not at all, sometimes it's a story thing. Maybe the party hired a tracker - if they get a random encounter, will the monsters just ignore that Ranger sitting right here? Will the Ranger just ignore the monsters?

"if the PC's need some guidance or assistance."
Believe I covered that one bruddah... and no, Rangers never ignore monsters! Vile, unnatural things that they are. :smallwink:

But in a lot of those type cases as you mentioned, you can usually get away with henchman rules no?

Doug Lampert
2010-09-29, 06:25 PM
"if the PC's need some guidance or assistance."
Believe I covered that one bruddah... and no, Rangers never ignore monsters! Vile, unnatural things that they are. :smallwink:

But in a lot of those type cases as you mentioned, you can usually get away with henchman rules no?

What henchman rules? If a DMPC is ALWAYS bad (claimed by many), then you can't count on the system having henchman rules. For example: 4th ed., the system under discussion, doesn't actually have any henchman rules, there are rules for companion NPCs or for allied monsters, but not for henchmen or hirelings.

And in any case a powerful henchman is an NPC who travels with the party and participates in adventures and combat along side the PCs. How is that NOT a DMPC? Plenty of "bad" DMPCs don't follow the same rules as a PC, so built like a PC isn't part of the defining characteristics of a DMPC.

I'll repeat my earlier statement from near the top of this thread:


DMPCs are only bad when they're bad. There are lots of people who claim otherwise, but IME they do so by "No True Scotsman" methods, of redefining DMPC to not include the healbot who tags along. Or the helpful NPC hireling. Or the useful NPC companion. Or anything else that's not whatever they object to.

The main problem with a DMPC is that the DM has enough on his plate already, if the PCs really need an ally or should have one from story considerations he should normally just hand the NPC to a PC as a temporary secondary character.

If you wish to claim DMPC is always bad except in conditions X, Y, and Z, perhaps you could CLEARLY define how I can identify a DMPC as opposed to an ally, patron, sponsor, servant, hireling, friend, or whatever?

Elemental_Elf
2010-09-29, 06:49 PM
I don't think the idea of a DMPC is a bad one, it's just that most of the time rookie DM's utilize DMPCs and make several classic mistakes - making the DMPC the star, giving lots of loot for the DMPC, not separating the DMPC's knowledge from the DM's knowledge, etc.

My group typically has a rotating DM seat (not because we all love being a player but because we all love being DMs and there really isn't enough time for all of us to have the intricate campaigns we dream of). My group is also very small, typically just 2 players and the DM. These two factors have really forced us to have some sort of DMPC (since no one really wants to play 2 characters). When I DM and I have my 'DMPC' I treat him as an NPC, because that's what he really is. The character has an established personality, so everyone at the table pretty much knows how the character will act in a given situation. I'll grant you he can't contribute as much to the roleplaying discussion or the decisions the group makes but that just goes with the territory.

The best trick I've learned (besides having an established personality) is giving the DMPC personality quirks that can force them to remain quiet and/or not thoughtful/insightful for large stretches of time. The typical choice is making a character with a low INT, which instantly gives you an excuse as to why he some times does and sometimes does not contribute. Another quirk might be extreme shyness - if other people are talking and/or dominating the conversation maybe he stays quiet. Another idea is to give the character a role in the party - like Tank or Healer - a role that does not necessarily demand the spot light the way the Trigger Happy Wizard or the raging Barbarian can.

Having said all of that, I have to agree, on the whole, DMPCs are a bad idea. I've never really gotten much satisfaction playing a DMPC... It's just extra work that you have to manage as a DM. If my group were larger, then we wouldn't need the DM to run his PC. Quite honestly, if your group has 3 players or more, there really shouldn't be a need for a DMPC. You can cover 3 of the 4 roles with 3 people (maybe more if you choose classes that have strong links to a different role), which is more than enough to get through most adventures and have loads of fun while doing it.

Daze
2010-09-29, 07:01 PM
What henchman rules? If a DMPC is ALWAYS bad (claimed by many), then you can't count on the system having henchman rules. For example: 4th ed., the system under discussion, doesn't actually have any henchman rules, there are rules for companion NPCs or for allied monsters, but not for henchmen or hirelings.

And in any case a powerful henchman is an NPC who travels with the party and participates in adventures and combat along side the PCs. How is that NOT a DMPC? Plenty of "bad" DMPCs don't follow the same rules as a PC, so built like a PC isn't part of the defining characteristics of a DMPC.

If you wish to claim DMPC is always bad except in conditions X, Y, and Z, perhaps you could CLEARLY define how I can identify a DMPC as opposed to an ally, patron, sponsor, servant, hireling, friend, or whatever?

Well I don't claim that it's "always bad". We are talking about a fluid game here and to each their own is appropriate in most cases.

I'm not initmately familiar with the 4E companion/NPC rules unfortunately, but they were decently covered in 2E and 3E.

In any case, the difference between a NPC companion/henchman and a DMPC is quite simply the effort put into playing it. DM's make and play NPC's all day long.. whether townspeople, bandits, blah, blah, etc... etc...
Some mercenary NPC a player group hires to help them clear a local dungeon is quite simply another set of die rolls in a combat situation. It is assumed that this NPC is hired and therefore at the (reasonable) disposal of the PC's and should be played and directed by the player or players responsible for him/her. Really, very little RP or tactical advice should be coming from this NPC.
A DMPC on the other hand is a fully rolled, fully fleshed character who travels along with the PC's and gives input on an equal level to the players.

That's how I would clearly define it. Die rolls vs RP... background vs foreground.

Hope that makes sense...

Doug Lampert
2010-09-30, 12:36 AM
Well I don't claim that it's "always bad". We are talking about a fluid game here and to each their own is appropriate in most cases.

I'm not intimately familiar with the 4E companion/NPC rules unfortunately, but they were decently covered in 2E and 3E.

In any case, the difference between a NPC companion/henchman and a DMPC is quite simply the effort put into playing it. DM's make and play NPC's all day long.. whether townspeople, bandits, blah, blah, etc... etc...
Some mercenary NPC a player group hires to help them clear a local dungeon is quite simply another set of die rolls in a combat situation. It is assumed that this NPC is hired and therefore at the (reasonable) disposal of the PC's and should be played and directed by the player or players responsible for him/her. Really, very little RP or tactical advice should be coming from this NPC.
A DMPC on the other hand is a fully rolled, fully fleshed character who travels along with the PC's and gives input on an equal level to the players.

That's how I would clearly define it. Die rolls vs RP... background vs foreground.

Hope that makes sense...

Oh, it makes sense, and it's the best definition I've seen, and it hits the biggest problem with a non-munchkin DMPC, which is the diversion of DM attention.

But I'm not sure it's always applicable. Last session I had an NPC volunteer to accompany the PCs. They promptly voted to make her a full member of the party with full voting rights and a voice in all group decisions.

I was rather surprised. There are only about a dozen obviously better choices for an NPC in the campaign to give full membership to (granted none of the better choices have asked, but more to the point the PCs have never offered even when asking these people to come on an adventure).

As a full member she's got a near veto over a bunch of things they might want to do in the future (lots of things require a super-majority).

She's still an NPC. As an allied NPC I'll certainly expect someone else to run her in combat (I run one side, the other seven of them can certainly run the other), but she won't be completely background in roleplaying and I'll play her there simply because I understand her full goals and motives and none of the players do (if they did I'm not sure they'd have given her that slot).

I simply can't for the life of me see how you distinguish an NPC full member of the party who's got a fairly detailed two page write-up from a DMPC except by reading the DM's mind. She had that write-up as an NPC so I know she's no more detailed than any number of other important NPCs, but I don't see how someone ELSE can know if this character is an NPC or DMPC using your definition since it requires reading my mind to know if I think of her as an NPC or a PC. (NPC, definitely. 4th ed by having substantial mechanical differences between a PC and NPC actually helps make this clearer to me. But the same thing could happen in other systems.)

Kylarra
2010-09-30, 12:53 AM
My usual rule of thumb for so-called DMPCs is "did the players choose to have them take an active role in things?". Specific NPCs may be more or less fleshed out in respect to other NPCs, but if the players choose to have that character accompany them, then that's their prerogative and they aren't suddenly going to lack personality or become mindless robots simply because they've entered into a partnership.

Violet Octopus
2010-09-30, 02:54 AM
For the latter: enemies aren't supposed to be made with the same rules as PCs in 4th, right? What's the best way to illustrate that? For the former: what's the best argument to be made against DMPCs?
While I'm new to 4th edition, the DMG does discourage using the player creation rules for NPCs, unless they're BBEGs, since one of the edition's goals was to cut down on DM effort. The math-related issues of power/damage/HP/healing surges seems like a good reason though.

I've played in a campaign where DMPCs worked fine, but it was one with a rotating DM, and we all knew not to put story focus on our own PCs when we were DMing. Another campaign had an annoying powerful NPC who was a levelled up version of the DM's former player character, but they were the quest giver, not the party Gandalf. As others have said, DMPCs are a mistake rookie DMs often make, but I think DMPCs are bad because they're played by rookie DMs rather than because they're inherently bad.

It's certainly something that needs a reason to implement beyond the DM wanting to play a protagonist too.


The other thing that worries me a lot is that, when we parleyed with an NPC, he tried to have it roll Intimidate against us. When I told him you're not supposed to do that, he said "Well, yeah, but it's Dark Sun", which--okay, Athas is hardcore, but that doesn't really change the fundamental that in roleplaying, you decide how your character reacts. Eventually, he decided not to go through with it, but I'm not sure I made the point as well as I could have. How do I fully explain the problems with this if it comes up again?
I wouldn't have a problem with a DM rolling Diplomacy/Intimidate checks against me, as long as it wasn't a concrete application of the mechanics, and didn't restrict player freedom to a single choice of "do what the king says" or whatever. If it's:

Grogdar sees Lord Bloboss, and runs onto the podium ready to attack.
Lord Bloboss sees Grogdar running towards him, he doesn't have time to give a Villain Speech, but he tries to intimidate you into backing off through body language.
*rolls Intimidate*
OK, you find this guy pretty scary, so I might give you a -2 to Initiative if you still decide to attack him immediately.
"Grogdar falters, but then he remembers the dying screams of his village and the laughter of the man responsible, the man standing directly before him. He attacks, crying 'For Helmvale!'

then I don't see much of a problem, especially if the player roleplayed overcoming their fear better than I've just written, and the DM dropped the initiative penalty. I never really liked the rule that PCs have flat immunity to social skill usage, though it's less out of place in 4th edition. Perhaps this kind of compromise could work for you.

ghost_warlock
2010-09-30, 03:26 AM
re: DMPCs

When used to fill gaps in the party, such as healer, 'DMPCs' might actually have merit. In fact, the DMG 2 actually proscribes the use of "Companion Characters" and has rules for creating such characters.

These characters are basically NPCs, using a simplified monster-like stat block and with stats/mechanics somewhat like that monsters have (although they have a lot fewer hps, lower defenses, etc.). They typically have training in two or three skills at most, and aren't supposed to be major resources for skill challenges and such.

During combat, control of the Companion is typically given over to one of the players (perhaps on a rotating basis throughout the party), with the understanding that, since the mechanics for the companion are much simpler than a typical PC, they shouldn't take much more effort to run.

At the same time, this takes them out of the DM's hands so they can't be used to, say, steal the spotlight (if it's even possible, given that they're typically weaker than PCs). Also, since the players are the ones rolling dice for them, they still feel like the game is theirs, not being hijacked by the DM's pet character and, if the Companion manages something awesome, the player still gets the 'rush' since they're the one controlling the Companion.

I used a couple Companions while running Tomb of Horrors and it seemed to work out okay. I plan on using one during my upcoming Dark Sun campaign, too, if only because the players (so far) have chosen swordmage, barbarian, assassin, and wizard for their character classes (the Companion will likely be based on that ardent, so they can have access to some in-combat healing).

Another benefit of the Companion is that, if someone's character bites it or is otherwise incapacitated, the player can assume control of the Companion for a time so they at least feel like they're doing something during the game (and thus aren't getting bored out of their minds or distracting the other players). Just might come up in a Dark Sun campaign. :smallwink:

HunterOfJello
2010-09-30, 03:37 AM
Sounds like your DM could use some friendly and cooperative advice from the group.

Really, things could be much much worse.


I've played with bad DMs before and yours only sounds like they need to learn a few things.

tbarrie
2010-09-30, 07:08 AM
First, he's encouraging player-against-player "duels"--to the point where one guy who was thinking of changing characters decided not to because his warden beat the swordmage he made in a one-on-one fight. It's fine when it doesn't mean anything and it's just for fun, but more worryingly, our DM made a character just to "duel" with, and declared he was going to use the guy in the game--I'm not sure if he meant as an ally or an enemy, but neither way bodes really well. For the latter: enemies aren't supposed to be made with the same rules as PCs in 4th, right?

The 4E DMG's stance is that enemies shouldn't be made using the same rules as PCs, except when they should. So that's fairly clear.:)

More seriously, what it actually says is that creating NPCs using the full PC-creation rules is generally more effort than its worth; that's not at all the same thing as saying you're not supposed to do it. It uses the example of a villain who's supposed to stick around for the whole campaign as one case where you might want to do so; I would argue that an enemy who's supposed to go one-on-one with a single PC and have the same variety of options that they do might be another.

And, of course, even if you use the standard NPC creation rules they still get powers from the PC lists, just not as many of them (nor will they get feats giving them a bunch of fiddly situational modifiers). There's also a separate system for adding PC class abilities to an existing monster, so the game designers certainly seem to think it's kosher to unleash PC powers against PCs.