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BrokenChord
2014-02-15, 02:56 PM
What it says on the tin.

Obviously, although many will argue both of these can be used well, as a general rule, DMPCs and Mary Sue NPCs should be avoided like the plague; sometimes an inexperienced DM might need to break immersion a bit in coming up with a reason why that level 13 wizard in town is leaving the goblin invaders to the level 1 shmucks, but as a general rule it's considered better form than the alternative.

But knowing these general rules of DMing, it led me to wonder. How much can you let PCs who aren't opposing the player do to help?

Well, I suppose that deserves a rephrase. As DM, you can make them as important as you want. But I mean to maintain an enjoyable atmosphere where players could still feel accomplished. So minimalizing them getting sidelined by more powerful NPCs, for instance.

The issue mainly comes online in situations where you've already characterized the NPC. For example, let's say that level 13 wizard is Lawful Good and knows the PCs quite well (they've probably taken a liking to him by now as well, so communication between the two is common). PCs are now level 4 or something to avoid people telling them to shunt off, and are now defending the town from a large-scale attack as a consequence of something that happened recently. The logical thing to happen is the wizard joining in the defense, which in and of itself isn't so bad.

Problems arise, however, when the PCs are heavily injured. The only really in-character thing for the wizard to do is to take every action to save them. And he probably has the power with which to do so. Yet him providing that help (especially if he dies because of it, even if that's a natural effect of the dice rather than a cutscene death) is generally frowned upon on these forums.

So how much are important NPCs supposed to be able to provide to the players before they become a negative impact on the game?

2014-02-15, 04:01 PM
Well, the Pcs are the stars of the show. No one likes the game when the DM solve all the problems.


The issue mainly comes online in situations where you've already characterized the NPC. For example, let's say that level 13 wizard is Lawful Good and knows the PCs quite well (they've probably taken a liking to him by now as well, so communication between the two is common). PCs are now level 4 or something to avoid people telling them to shunt off, and are now defending the town from a large-scale attack as a consequence of something that happened recently. The logical thing to happen is the wizard joining in the defense, which in and of itself isn't so bad.

Problems arise, however, when the PCs are heavily injured. The only really in-character thing for the wizard to do is to take every action to save them. And he probably has the power with which to do so. Yet him providing that help (especially if he dies because of it, even if that's a natural effect of the dice rather than a cutscene death) is generally frowned upon on these forums.

So how much are important NPCs supposed to be able to provide to the players before they become a negative impact on the game?

You need to be creative. Maybe the wizard is not a combat wizard and have no combat spell prepared. Or maybe he got more imortant things to do like save the king or the citizens. If all else fails try to do something that prevents the wizard to get close to the PCs to help something such as... Dunno stones blocking his way or something.

TheThan
2014-02-15, 04:49 PM
Even James Bond and Indiana Jones have allies and friends. They always take a backseat to both Bond and Jones. But they’re there and they’re useful addition to the story. They support the PCs in between adventures.

That’s the trick, make the NPCs characters that provide support for the players. A gracious king that’s indebted to them because they rescued his daughter from the dragon is perfectly suitable NPC. He can provide the PCs with a safe place to stay and rest up, seek out healing and new equipment and magic, and even provide the characters with new quests, all without interfering with or hijacking the story. The players have nothing to call the DM on, and may actually appreciate having some help.

jedipotter
2014-02-15, 04:56 PM
So how much are important NPCs supposed to be able to provide to the players before they become a negative impact on the game?

I make most of my NPC's special, not not game characters. For example, that 13th level wizard might only have a 12 for intelligence. So no high level spells for him.

Fable Wright
2014-02-15, 04:57 PM
Something I'm trying out in my current campaign, based on a campaign journal I read, is letting the players use the NPCs as temporary PCs. You have a 13th level Wizard that could help out? Give the Players his spellbook, let them pick his spell loadout for the day between sessions, and let them direct his actions throughout the battle by consensus. Suddenly, the Wizard is an awesome ally, giving crucial support throughout the battle and earning the gratitude of the PCs, rather than being a showboating jerk who steals their glory, even if your actions and the PCs would have been the same.

Alternatively, if you want the Wizard to essentially be a backup "Don't Die" button for the players, have him give them all a one-time-use Word of Recall item before the battle. When the PCs get too injured to continue, they can go back to the Wizard and be saved without the Wizard showboating around with the defense.

Or a combination of the two. The first player to go down/teleports out convinces the Wizard to take action, and then controls the Wizard for the remainder of the fight. Players take less exception to Bob across the table taking over the Wizard to save them all after otherwise being marginalized than the DM bringing in the Wizard for a Deus Ex Machina.

Thrudd
2014-02-15, 05:35 PM
What it says on the tin.

Obviously, although many will argue both of these can be used well, as a general rule, DMPCs and Mary Sue NPCs should be avoided like the plague; sometimes an inexperienced DM might need to break immersion a bit in coming up with a reason why that level 13 wizard in town is leaving the goblin invaders to the level 1 shmucks, but as a general rule it's considered better form than the alternative.

But knowing these general rules of DMing, it led me to wonder. How much can you let PCs who aren't opposing the player do to help?

Well, I suppose that deserves a rephrase. As DM, you can make them as important as you want. But I mean to maintain an enjoyable atmosphere where players could still feel accomplished. So minimalizing them getting sidelined by more powerful NPCs, for instance.

The issue mainly comes online in situations where you've already characterized the NPC. For example, let's say that level 13 wizard is Lawful Good and knows the PCs quite well (they've probably taken a liking to him by now as well, so communication between the two is common). PCs are now level 4 or something to avoid people telling them to shunt off, and are now defending the town from a large-scale attack as a consequence of something that happened recently. The logical thing to happen is the wizard joining in the defense, which in and of itself isn't so bad.

Problems arise, however, when the PCs are heavily injured. The only really in-character thing for the wizard to do is to take every action to save them. And he probably has the power with which to do so. Yet him providing that help (especially if he dies because of it, even if that's a natural effect of the dice rather than a cutscene death) is generally frowned upon on these forums.

So how much are important NPCs supposed to be able to provide to the players before they become a negative impact on the game?

A higher level NPC, especially one as high level as in your situation, shouldn't be around to help the PC's on a regular basis. They should be too busy with their own stuff to really get involved more than briefly, or act as a patron behind the scenes once in a while.
1e AD&D gives a guideline that an NPC who is within two levels of the party, lower or higher, will only agree to join them for a period of up to two weeks or a single expedition. An NPC more than two levels above the PC's should not have an active role in their adventures at all.
A level 13 wizard should probably have more pressing concerns than whatever the 4th level characters are involved with, regardless of his alignment or feelings about them. Gandalf leaves Bilbo and the Dwarves as they enter Mirkwood, a very dangerous place, because he has more important things to do. He didn't swoop in to save them when they got attacked by spiders or imprisoned by elves, either, even though he felt very strongly about Bilbo.
I would wean these characters off of this NPC, by having him be involved in something much too dangerous for them in another part of the world or on another plane. Maybe he will leave a message for them, or use sending or astral projection to contact them once in a while to see how they're doing and let them know he's thinking about them.

Kimera757
2014-02-16, 02:03 PM
What it says on the tin.

The issue mainly comes online in situations where you've already characterized the NPC. For example, let's say that level 13 wizard is Lawful Good and knows the PCs quite well (they've probably taken a liking to him by now as well, so communication between the two is common). PCs are now level 4 or something to avoid people telling them to shunt off, and are now defending the town from a large-scale attack as a consequence of something that happened recently. The logical thing to happen is the wizard joining in the defense, which in and of itself isn't so bad.

The typical Forgotten Realms problem. It's a world-building issue.

I think of it as a police show. Suppose the main characters are small town cops, and a serial killer who has hit several small towns comes to theirs, kills someone and then (probably) leaves. The FBI has been hunting this killer, and they show up with their superior resources and technology. Fans won't be happy if the FBI does all the work. Why are the main characters there? Usually a TV show fixes this problem by having the FBI agents be incompetent ivory tower lawyers. Somehow I doubt it's realistic, but then how often is TV that? The fans will be happy.

Or the other way around. Suppose the main characters are FBI agents (Mulder and Scully, say?). They come to the small town, where the cops are "closer to the ground" and know the local terrain. If the local cops solve the crime, why are Mulder and Scully even there? Usually TV shows would make the small town cops incompetent at anything beyond stopping rum running, which is unlikely to be an accurate portrayal, but it will keep the fans happy.

(To make this more relevant to an RPG discussion, if the campaign was d20 Modern, Mulder and Scully might be level 13-15 agents, as the Menace Manual puts the typical federal agent at level 13. Probably not realistic, but there you go. Their boss, Director Skinner, is probably only a level or so ahead of them. Why can't he show up and solve their problems? He put so many skill points into management skills and spends several hours a day running the department. He didn't get his position due to high level, but due to his specific skills. Well, his level may have played a role, in that he's better at his job than a level 14 manager. Still, Mulder and Scully can't do his job, and he can't do theirs.)

In both cases, the writers wrote the world so the heroes didn't have too much "good guy competition".

Different settings go about this their own way. In the Eberron setting, for instance, finding a named good character above level 8 or so is rare. Finding any named character over level 13 is also rare. The "Big Goods" of the setting are all limited in some way. Oalian, the animated tree druid 20, and might have a CR of 24-29, can't leave his forest. The Pope is a powerful level 16 cleric... in Vatican City. Outside she's a 16-year-old level 3 cleric.

The villains are usually slightly more powerful (the PCs have to tip the scales in favor of Team Good), but the strongest of the villains still have powerful limits. Vol is hated by two entire races, one of which is dragons, so doesn't show her face. The Lord of Blades is far more powerful in the Mournland where nothing organic can live for long, but doesn't have many troops so couldn't win a massive battle outside his "safe" zone. The most powerful Cthulhu monsters are stuck on another plane, and can only come through when cultists perform involved rituals that will certainly draw the PCs' attention. Same with a balor (with its Teleport Without Error and Dominate Monster at-will abilities, it could literally take over the world in a day), so it's probably not a good idea to just introduce a balor into Eberron.

What role does the wizard in the above example have? If he's 13th-level he's perfectly capable of doing entire level 4 adventures single-handedly. Give him the right items and he's capable of doing so without expending permanent resources. I don't see any need to have an NPC who interacts with the PCs being nine levels their senior.

In my own place of work, there's an obvious hierarchy. I'm not supposed to say where I work for some reasons, but it's a branch of the federal government of Canada. (I deal with confidential but not classified info.) A few weeks ago the minister dropped into the office for maybe an hour. She said some words near my workstation, got her picture taken with some people, and then left. A grunt like myself isn't going to have any kind of sustained interaction with her; if I did, there are dozens or hundreds of other people like me who would also take up her time. If I have a problem, I talk to a supervisor. The supervisor can talk to a manager. The manager can talk to a senior manager. The senior manager can talk to a director in another building. The director can talk to the minister's deputy or chief of staff in another city.

If this were modeled like an RPG setting, and each rank had a level increase, here's what happens:

I'm a level 1 "grunt".
Level 2 supervisor
Level 3 manager
Level 4 senior manager
Level 5 director
Level 6 deputy minister or chief of staff
Level 7 minister

Or a military setting, specifically US Army and not Special Forces:
Level 1 Private
Level 2 Corporal
Level 3 Sergeant (leads a fire team of 4-5 men)
Level 4 Staff Sergeant (leads a squad, usually 3-5 fire teams)
Level 5 Sergeant First Class (second-in-command of a platoon, which is usually 3-5 squads)
Level 5 Lieutenant (leads a platoon; the sergeant first class is usually more experienced in military terms than a lieutenant, but the lieutenant didn't get that rank until some years later and probably had more non-military experience, assuming the lieutenant didn't get the job yesterday. This assumes the officer isn't a mustang; if they are, they're much higher level)
Level 6 Captain (leads a company, usually 3 or so platoons)
Level 7 Major
Level 8 Lieutenant Colonel (leads a battalion, usually several companies plus associated smaller units). By this point, the officer probably has 15-17 years of military experience. Officers usually retire at this rank.

Following the chain of command, a 4th-level staff sergeant is unlikely to talk to a lieutenant colonel unless they're working in the colonel's office. Being friends with the colonel? Not too likely, although possible.

Funnily enough, d20 Modern has the "typical" officer (no rank given) being a 13th-level character! IMO, getting past 10th-level is a tremendous milestone. There are literally thousands of US Army officers.

By contrast, a level 13 wizard is so far removed from the PCs he should never get more than a minute or two of face time with them. If he's so driven he's gotten to that level, he's either a research mage who is too busy doing his research, or he's an adventurer with his own party and is off across the world with his Teleport spells fighting desperate battles with demons, fallen angels, and rampaging elementals.

Even if the wizard is tied to a city (you pretty much need a large city, if not a metropolis, to even have a wizard of such high level), 4th-level PCs are just a drop of water in a bucket. They're not going to play a big role fighting an invasion that's substantial enough to threaten a metropolis with a 13th-level wizard. (If the PCs can do a lot to stop the invasion, said invasion wasn't much of a challenge to the city. If the PCs couldn't stop it, the local militia could.)

mephnick
2014-02-16, 02:11 PM
Like previously stated, you have to be imaginative. I actually prefer to use NPCs that are slightly weaker than the party, though the stronger mentor NPC is very tempting to use. It almost requires creating a separate storyline to keep the NPC out of the main campaign, but that can lead to adventure hooks at a higher level.

Part of the reason I love e6 is that it removes the "why can't this powerful guy help us?" problem, because that person simply doesn't exist past a certain point.

BWR
2014-02-16, 03:37 PM
So how much are important NPCs supposed to be able to provide to the players before they become a negative impact on the game?

As unhelpful as it is to say this: exactly as much as the players are comfortable with.
Some players will be insulted if they can't be in charge of just about everything that isn't trying to kill them. Some players are fine with more powerful people doing a lot and overshadowing them every now and then (so long as it doesn't happen all the time and they have the opportunity to grow and do the same to others).

Slipperychicken
2014-02-17, 12:35 AM
I'd say that NPCs shouldn't steal the show. That is, they should not totally outclass a PC in his specialty, but they can fill roles the PCs don't have covered. They can fill roles the PCs already have covered, if the NPC isn't obviously better at it (being the PCs' equal is acceptable, however).

There are probably exceptions to that, though.



The issue mainly comes online in situations where you've already characterized the NPC. For example, let's say that level 13 wizard is Lawful Good and knows the PCs quite well (they've probably taken a liking to him by now as well, so communication between the two is common). PCs are now level 4 or something to avoid people telling them to shunt off, and are now defending the town from a large-scale attack as a consequence of something that happened recently. The logical thing to happen is the wizard joining in the defense, which in and of itself isn't so bad.


One way to solve it: The wizard is so old and frail (i.e. d4 hit dice, minus 6 to Con and Dex from Venerable age -> One hitpoint wonder (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OneHitPointWonder)) that he believes he would do little good on the front line. But he is willing to give some advice, all-day buffs, and consumables to the youngsters.

Artemicion
2014-02-17, 03:23 AM
Give the Players his spellbook, let them pick his spell loadout for the day between sessions, and let them direct his actions throughout the battle by consensus. Suddenly, the Wizard is an awesome ally

Yes! I have done something similar in the past, and the players loved it. The NPC becomes a resource they can use instead of a shadow over them. I also gives them a taste of the power they will eventually get.

Kiero
2014-02-17, 06:58 AM
Allied NPCs are just fine, as long as they are clearly NPCs that the GM is not personally invested in. That covers important figures in the setting and henchmen who tag along with the PCs just the same.

Taking a single NPC and investing them with the same level of personal interest as a player would in their PC is a different matter. That's a bad business. The GM shouldn't be invested in both sides of the screen at once. If they want to play a character, hand over the mantle to someone else.

In our long-running WFRP2e game, we had an NPC scribe who became a member of the party for a while, handling all sorts of administration, intelligence and logistics for us. He was effectively a 5th PC in terms of screen time, acting as information font and sounding board. Though he was an almost complete non-combatant. I think he stabbed someone with a knife once, but the PCs were there for the bloody stuff.

He was with us for a goodly time, before retiring from our travails to become the spymaster and intelligence chief for the new nation we were forging. Which was no longer under our control since a Karl had been nominated.

Threadnaught
2014-02-17, 08:47 PM
Exactly as relevant as their ability to entertain the players.

One of my players referred to an unstatted (I'm lazy) Blue Mage, who's importance depends on the players, as a fire breathing paedophile. Whether the players like him or not, he's important to the game at the moment, this is based entirely on the PCs having not yet killed him.
He does somewhat steal every scene he's in, not by deeds, but with his words. The voice (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRKZCtdTOZA) I (attempt to) use to speak for this guy, terrifies them.

I'm hoping they don't kill him, because I've been trying to stat him for a while, but it's their choice. Though he is allowed to fight back if he knows he's being attacked. :smallamused:

Mr Beer
2014-02-17, 09:49 PM
I rarely have long term NPCs actively helping the party and if they do, they are no stronger than the weakest party member. PCs dominate the show.

The problem of powerful friendly NPCs is solved in a number of ways:

1. "Powerful" doesn't necessarily mean "combat monster". Plenty of powerful people are low level, they are just rich/charismatic/ruthless/competent etc.

2. Powerful people have better things to do than help out plebs with their petty, mundane tasks.

3. I tend to adjust "Powerful" NPCs relative to current PC status to some extent, so there often isn't a vast level disparity.

4. The powerful NPC is doing something crucial to help defeat the bad guys, that happens to be a long way away from the characters.

5. The powerful NPC just got nerfed by the bad guy in some way and is all out of spells/horribly injured/temporarily kidnapped.

Defiled Cross
2014-02-18, 09:07 AM
As it stands, the game I currently DM for has a "failed" Bard for a companion.

Provides just enough information to be helpful, without offering too much in the way of martial assistance.

INDYSTAR188
2014-02-18, 11:33 AM
Yes! I have done something similar in the past, and the players loved it. The NPC becomes a resource they can use instead of a shadow over them. I also gives them a taste of the power they will eventually get.

My PC's split the party once so I created fleshed out characters with all the necissary stats for them to still have characters to play during the session. They didn't really go for it and just went through the motions :(.

Jay R
2014-02-18, 11:53 AM
Ideally, the NPC ally is crucial to getting quickly past the dull challenges and mere background to the fun challenges.

This advice would be more helpful if there were any agreement about what constitutes "dull" and "fun".

YossarianLives
2014-02-18, 11:59 AM
Maybe something could happen like the wizard starts the battle helping the PCs.
But after a few rounds the wizard goes off to defend a different side of the city.
Thus leaving the PCs to deal with the goblins on they're own.

Tengu_temp
2014-02-18, 12:00 PM
Allied NPC should have a purpose and reason to be there other than helping the party with their abilities. An NPC who might as well not be there from a story point of view is a waste of space.

Generally, the more the players like an NPC, the bigger a role that NPC can have. If it's someone they like a lot, they won't mind even if the NPC is more powerful than them and there's a storyline that focuses on it. But that's a rare example, and in general the PCs are the main characters and the NPCs are the supporting cast. But do note that the supporting cast sometimes gets the spotlight and a place to shine too!


Taking a single NPC and investing them with the same level of personal interest as a player would in their PC is a different matter. That's a bad business. The GM shouldn't be invested in both sides of the screen at once. If they want to play a character, hand over the mantle to someone else.


Wrong. I never used DMPCs myself, but I've both seen and heard of them being used to good effect. It's just that not many DMs manage to pull them off.

Kiero
2014-02-18, 12:33 PM
Wrong. I never used DMPCs myself, but I've both seen and heard of them being used to good effect. It's just that not many DMs manage to pull them off.

Playing and running a game at the same time is masturbatory. And not in a good way.

Tengu_temp
2014-02-18, 03:43 PM
Yeah, that's a very mature and convincing counter-argument.

Artemicion
2014-02-19, 07:15 AM
I do it all the time, and the players like it (using DMPCs, I mean).

Worse, my "DMPCs" (I do not really like that word, though. It's just basically NPC that tag along for a reason or another, sometimes at the request of the PCs) are usually about the same level of power as the PCs. And usually grow with them.

My first rule is that there must alwasy be a good reason for them to travel with the PCs, and more often than not it is only for a short time.

I use them for a variety of reasons.

Conveying the flavor of the campaign world to the PCs (that weird foreign soldier with apparently no emotions whatsoever says quite more about that foreign country then if I spend ten minutes describing it).

Conveying information to the PCs about the area they are in so they don't make foolish mistakes ("I've been living in those marshes for years, lad. I wouldn't touch that shrub if I were you).

Making the plot move forward when the PCs have been discussing for hours without agreeing on anything. (They otherwise bicker forever).

Giving me something to do and partake in the discussions when the players discuss for hours about what to do instead of standing there doing nothing (DMs are allowed to have fun too).

In some cases, giving them access to skills they don't have if they really need them.

Etc.

And the players love them.

Threadnaught
2014-02-19, 01:59 PM
Stuff.

Yes, this is exactly what I do.


Playing and running a game at the same time is masturbatory. And not in a good way.

Yes, because let's forget that the DM is also a player and that it's important for them to have fun and care about the game as well.
Let's forget that this is a person who may have better things to do that robotically run a game for the gratification of the players.

If the players want that they could just play a video game.

AMFV
2014-02-19, 03:11 PM
The typical Forgotten Realms problem. It's a world-building issue.

I think of it as a police show. Suppose the main characters are small town cops, and a serial killer who has hit several small towns comes to theirs, kills someone and then (probably) leaves. The FBI has been hunting this killer, and they show up with their superior resources and technology. Fans won't be happy if the FBI does all the work. Why are the main characters there? Usually a TV show fixes this problem by having the FBI agents be incompetent ivory tower lawyers. Somehow I doubt it's realistic, but then how often is TV that? The fans will be happy.

It's a conceit common to TV shows, they simply cannot have that many characters present as would be required for the investigations. There are cases that the FBI failed to solve cases where small town cops where able to, and vis versa, it's certainly possible to have either side be incompetent. I've met incompetent police, and I'm sure that there are also incompetent FBI officers.




Or the other way around. Suppose the main characters are FBI agents (Mulder and Scully, say?). They come to the small town, where the cops are "closer to the ground" and know the local terrain. If the local cops solve the crime, why are Mulder and Scully even there? Usually TV shows would make the small town cops incompetent at anything beyond stopping rum running, which is unlikely to be an accurate portrayal, but it will keep the fans happy.


Again it's a necessary conceit, also we have cases where the "NPCs" are not incompetent but simply not at the right place at the right time which is realistic, in real life who winds up solving something or being the "main character" is largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time, which is fundamentally a question of luck.


running the department[/i]. He didn't get his position due to high level, but due to his specific skills. Well, his level may have played a role, in that he's better at his job than a level 14 manager. Still, Mulder and Scully can't do his job, and he can't do theirs.)

Because level is an abstraction, in the real world my boss is not simply "better" than me in all respects, furthermore there is no rule that level is related to rank in any way in most roleplaying worlds. Which is consistent with the real world where rank tends to revolve a specific set of competencies rather than general competency.




The point is that even if you have more powerful characters they may not have a reason to be involved, also if they become involved in all the little problems, when do they sleep. No one person can fix everything, even if they're NI level.

[QUOTE=Kimera757;17009279
In my own place of work, there's an obvious hierarchy. I'm not supposed to say where I work for some reasons, but it's a branch of the federal government of Canada. (I deal with confidential but not classified info.) A few weeks ago the minister dropped into the office for maybe an hour. She said some words near my workstation, got her picture taken with some people, and then left. A grunt like myself isn't going to have any kind of sustained interaction with her; if I did, there are dozens or hundreds of other people like me who would also take up her time. If I have a problem, I talk to a supervisor. The supervisor can talk to a manager. The manager can talk to a senior manager. The senior manager can talk to a director in another building. The director can talk to the minister's deputy or chief of staff in another city.

If this were modeled like an RPG setting, and each rank had a level increase, here's what happens:

I'm a level 1 "grunt".
Level 2 supervisor
Level 3 manager
Level 4 senior manager
Level 5 director
Level 6 deputy minister or chief of staff
Level 7 minister

Or a military setting, specifically US Army and not Special Forces:
Level 1 Private
Level 2 Corporal
Level 3 Sergeant (leads a fire team of 4-5 men)
Level 4 Staff Sergeant (leads a squad, usually 3-5 fire teams)
Level 5 Sergeant First Class (second-in-command of a platoon, which is usually 3-5 squads)
Level 5 Lieutenant (leads a platoon; the sergeant first class is usually more experienced in military terms than a lieutenant, but the lieutenant didn't get that rank until some years later and probably had more non-military experience, assuming the lieutenant didn't get the job yesterday. This assumes the officer isn't a mustang; if they are, they're much higher level)
Level 6 Captain (leads a company, usually 3 or so platoons)
Level 7 Major
Level 8 Lieutenant Colonel (leads a battalion, usually several companies plus associated smaller units). By this point, the officer probably has 15-17 years of military experience. Officers usually retire at this rank.

This is actually the whole reason I responded, I was in the military, and this is absolute bunk, literally bunk. Your rank doesn't necessarily have much to do with competency and suggesting that a lieutenant is more experienced than a First Sergeant who has very likely been in the military more years than the Butterbar has been alive is pretty ridiculous.

Rank != Level, they aren't synonymous, rank may have to do with social connections, or with a particular set of skills. For example if they promote based on how far you can run, then a level 20 Wizard with 4 Con may be a very low rank indeed, since we have specific criteria, which is more representative of the real world.

RPGaddict28
2014-02-19, 03:27 PM
What I occasionally do in invasion type scenarios with high level NPC's is have them "nova" the enemies, killing a bunch of them, using all his energy, And then only enemies left are the ones I would have had the PC's fights on their own.

Kiero
2014-02-19, 05:01 PM
Yes, because let's forget that the DM is also a player and that it's important for them to have fun and care about the game as well.
Let's forget that this is a person who may have better things to do that robotically run a game for the gratification of the players.

If the players want that they could just play a video game.

Nope, sorry, if I'm running a game I derive fun from things other than running a single, personal-investment character. Otherwise I get out from behind the screen (figuratively, I don't have an actual screen when I GM) and let someone else have a turn.

Got nothing whatsoever to do with caring about the game, but having the appropriate perspective. When you GM, you don't invest in any of the NPCs the way a player would in their PC. That way ****ty GMing lies.

Vrock_Summoner
2014-02-19, 06:19 PM
Nope, sorry, if I'm running a game I derive fun from things other than running a single, personal-investment character. Otherwise I get out from behind the screen (figuratively, I don't have an actual screen when I GM) and let someone else have a turn.

Got nothing whatsoever to do with caring about the game, but having the appropriate perspective. When you GM, you don't invest in any of the NPCs the way a player would in their PC. That way ****ty GMing lies.

You imply that there's some kind of rule that players have to get invested in their characters. Set your minimum as the standard of the most-invested player at the table; do NOT set your maximum to the least-invested player's standards. Sure, I can get with not developing emotional bonds with your own NPCs, but mentally, you damn well better be invested or you will then be heading down from merely unspectacular DMing into "Not gaming is better than gaming with you" territory.

Threadnaught
2014-02-19, 07:03 PM
Nope, sorry, if I'm running a game I derive fun from things other than running a single, personal-investment character.

I'm not saying they should play a single NPC as if it were a PC. I'm saying they should be allowed to play without someone else at the table getting uppity about the DM's job being to entertain the players.


Otherwise I get out from behind the screen (figuratively, I don't have an actual screen when I GM) and let someone else have a turn.

Because that's clearly an option every DM can choose?


Got nothing whatsoever to do with caring about the game, but having the appropriate perspective. When you GM, you don't invest in any of the NPCs the way a player would in their PC. That way ****ty GMing lies.

Because it is impossible to create interesting/recurring villains and hirelings with distinctive personalities. In order to pose a reasonable threat, there must be creation time comparable to that of the PCs, after all PCs and NPCs are developed using the same rules.
I'm not saying the DM needs to be able to spend as much time playing as each NPC as the players get to play as the PCs, but when creating villains, important NPCs and special challenges. If it's something they want to be special for their players to remember, why shouldn't DMs be allowed to invest time to make it special?

Or just go with Vrock_Summoner


You imply that there's some kind of rule that players have to get invested in their characters. Set your minimum as the standard of the most-invested player at the table; do NOT set your maximum to the least-invested player's standards. Sure, I can get with not developing emotional bonds with your own NPCs, but mentally, you damn well better be invested or you will then be heading down from merely unspectacular DMing into "Not gaming is better than gaming with you" territory.

When I say a DM should invest in the game and NPCs, I am not referring to any emotional attachments. I mean this stuff.

Kiero
2014-02-20, 04:09 AM
I'm not saying they should play a single NPC as if it were a PC. I'm saying they should be allowed to play without someone else at the table getting uppity about the DM's job being to entertain the players.

Which has nothing whatsoever to do with my point.

A GM isn't playing, they aren't investing a single NPC with the same connection as they might a PC if they were a player. They aren't treating that one individual as special and worthy of greater consideration than the rest of the NPCs populating the game world.


Because that's clearly an option every DM can choose?

I play with a group where everyone has GMed at least once and most are willing to do so again. If that's not an option, clearly you need a new group. I can't imagine anything more miserable gaming-wise than only ever having the same GM.


Because it is impossible to create interesting/recurring villains and hirelings with distinctive personalities.

Which again has nothing whatsoever to do with my point.

Creating interesting and distinctive NPCs is not investing them with the same level of personal importance as a PC. When I'm GMing none of the NPCs in particular are "mine".


In order to pose a reasonable threat, there must be creation time comparable to that of the PCs, after all PCs and NPCs are developed using the same rules.

They don't have to be developed using the same rules at all. Depends on the game, there are plenty where they use different rules. Especially if making a PC is a labourious ball-ache of a process (eg Exalted). More to the point, this thread isn't about villains, it's about allies.

The worst GMPCs aren't antagonists but pseudo-PCs tagging along and getting just as much spotlight time as the PCs played by the players.


I'm not saying the DM needs to be able to spend as much time playing as each NPC as the players get to play as the PCs, but when creating villains, important NPCs and special challenges. If it's something they want to be special for their players to remember, why shouldn't DMs be allowed to invest time to make it special?

Villains are irrelevant, that's not even what we're discussing here. The topic is "allied NPCs" not antagonists.

And once again, you're completely missing the point, investment is about treating one particular NPC as special and different to everyone else, not the amount of time put into making them.

Tengu_temp
2014-02-20, 07:03 AM
Nope, sorry, if I'm running a game I derive fun from things other than running a single, personal-investment character. Otherwise I get out from behind the screen (figuratively, I don't have an actual screen when I GM) and let someone else have a turn.

Got nothing whatsoever to do with caring about the game, but having the appropriate perspective. When you GM, you don't invest in any of the NPCs the way a player would in their PC. That way ****ty GMing lies.

You're saying how you're playing the game, and that's fine. But does that mean your way is the only good way to play? That all those groups and DMs who successfully used DMPCs are doing it wrong?

Kiero
2014-02-20, 07:13 AM
You're saying how you're playing the game, and that's fine. But does that mean your way is the only good way to play? That all those groups and DMs who successfully used DMPCs are doing it wrong?

Yes. GMPCs are bad GMing. I said that already, how explicit would you like me to make it?

Yora
2014-02-20, 07:31 AM
I think the best use of allies is to have to take over tasks that the PCs can't take care of while they are doing there thing. In more complex conflicts, there's always multiple things that need to be done at the same time, and the PCs can be at only one place at once. Allies can take care of those other things and make significant contributions to the overall effort, but whatever tasks the players decide to take on, they should deal with on their own.

Tengu_temp
2014-02-20, 07:53 AM
Yes. GMPCs are bad GMing. I said that already, how explicit would you like me to make it?

So you're arrogantly saying that people having fun not the same way as you are having fun the wrong way. Good to know.

Remind me never to play with you.

Yora
2014-02-20, 08:39 AM
In this case, I can't see how a GMPC could ever be a good idea either.

Kiero
2014-02-20, 08:42 AM
So you're arrogantly saying that people having fun not the same way as you are having fun the wrong way. Good to know.

Remind me never to play with you.

Luckily for both of us, I don't think this is an occurrence ever likely to happen.

Tengu_temp
2014-02-20, 08:46 AM
I played with DMs who successfully implemented DMPCs. I know groups who did the same thing. And many other posters on GitP have the same experience as me.

If you think DMPCs are always bad, then you call all those DMs bad. Just because you've never seen a well-executed DMPC (and to be fair, they're usually not well-executed) doesn't mean it can't be done.

Is the purpose of a DMPC to have your cake and eat it too? Yes, pretty much. But if the character is not stronger than the rest of the party, and takes an active role only when everyone else is out of ideas, and the party is fine with that, then who cares? You're playing RPGs wrong only if people at the table don't have fun. If everyone has fun, then you're doing it the right way.

Artemicion
2014-02-20, 09:44 AM
Although there certainly are possible pitfalls when using DMPCs, they certainly are not inherently bad. I have seen many DMPCs, either as a DM or as a player, and they always have contributed positively to everyone's enjoyment of the game.

Maybe I have been very lucky, or maybe I just play with an awesome group.

But yeah, as long as everyone is enjoying the game, what is the problem?

Should I go to my group and tell them we are doing something "bad" and we that should try to have less fun?

squiggit
2014-02-20, 11:55 AM
In this case, I can't see how a GMPC could ever be a good idea either.

I ran a shadowrun game once where no one wanted to be a hacker. So I whip up an NPC decker and do all the hacking rolls in the background so they can focus on slashing and killing and stuff.

Worked out really well. The character was useful enough to be liked but not obtrusive enough to cause problems because his actions weren't as overt.

Coidzor
2014-02-20, 01:02 PM
Yes, because let's forget that the DM is also a player and that it's important for them to have fun and care about the game as well.
Let's forget that this is a person who may have better things to do that robotically run a game for the gratification of the players.

If the players want that they could just play a video game.

If one *can't* have fun DMing without a DMPC, that is a flaw with the DM. If one is so married to the concept of having a DMPC that one insists upon running such a character even when one can't pull it off, that's a flaw with the DM.

And that's entirely setting aside the relative efficacy and likelihood a given DM-group configuration is fertile ground for such a character in the first place.

Kiero
2014-02-20, 01:08 PM
I ran a shadowrun game once where no one wanted to be a hacker. So I whip up an NPC decker and do all the hacking rolls in the background so they can focus on slashing and killing and stuff.

Worked out really well. The character was useful enough to be liked but not obtrusive enough to cause problems because his actions weren't as overt.

That's not a GMPC in and of itself. Was it "your" character in the group, were they expected to get at least as much screen time as the PCs? Did you treat them differently to other NPCs?

If no to those, that's just a regular NPC. The fact that they tag along doesn't make them a GMPC.

BWR
2014-02-20, 02:01 PM
Another 'DMPC = bad' argument.
*sigh*
If the character is one the DM plays, if it is one that accompanies the PCs for an extended time (one or more entire adventures, perhaps through an entire campaign), if it has a distinct personality, if it comes up with suggestions and ideas tha may or many not help the group, if it argues with the PCs sometimes, if it has own goals, if it contrinbutes meaningfully to the party and the game: is it not a DMPC?

Because all of the above can be true without the DMPC overshadowing the PCs, removing player agency, being a terrible character put in just so the DM can show or any number of other sins that some people attribute to all DMPCs.

Doug Lampert
2014-02-20, 02:04 PM
That's not a GMPC in and of itself. Was it "your" character in the group, were they expected to get at least as much screen time as the PCs? Did you treat them differently to other NPCs?

If no to those, that's just a regular NPC. The fact that they tag along doesn't make them a GMPC.

The problem with the "GM investment" definition of a DMPC vs. an NPC is that I've NEVER seen anyone give a good way for a player to tell the difference other than "is this well done". How do you know how invested the GM is?

And if the way you identify a DMPC from an allied NPC is "this one is badly done" then I don't see the term as actually having any useful meaning.

Thinker
2014-02-20, 04:43 PM
NPC's should be bumbling buffoons at best and incompetent sources of treasure and information at worst. Their only purpose is to highlight how awesome the players are. This is applicable for all types of NPC: allies, opponents, villains, neutrals, mooks, etc.

Mr Beer
2014-02-20, 04:48 PM
Yes. GMPCs are bad GMing. I said that already, how explicit would you like me to make it?

This is silly unless you are using a particular and limited definition of GMPC. Just because something is a red flag doesn't make it axiomatically bad.


NPC's should be bumbling buffoons at best and incompetent sources of treasure and information at worst. Their only purpose is to highlight how awesome the players are. This is applicable for all types of NPC: allies, opponents, villains, neutrals, mooks, etc.

Blue text implied?

Thinker
2014-02-20, 08:09 PM
Blue text implied?

What is blue text used for?

AMFV
2014-02-20, 08:12 PM
What is blue text used for?

Informally it's used for sarcasm, I'll never use it though, since announcing sarcasm is like explaining the joke, and that's just terrible.

Mr Beer
2014-02-20, 08:43 PM
Informally it's used for sarcasm, I'll never use it though, since announcing sarcasm is like explaining the joke, and that's just terrible.

Agreed, it's like titling your post "Uh-oh, LOLs upcoming!". I prefer a modicum of subtlety.

ChaoticDitz
2014-02-20, 08:58 PM
Agreed, it's like titling your post "Uh-oh, LOLs upcoming!". I prefer a modicum of subtlety.

To be fair, I'd prefer the joke to be a bit less funny than to have the fact that it's a text-based format cause most people to not get that it's a joke and thus get offended. Which usually results in explaining the joke anyway.

TuggyNE
2014-02-20, 09:06 PM
To be fair, I'd prefer the joke to be a bit less funny than to have the fact that it's a text-based format cause most people to not get that it's a joke and thus get offended. Which usually results in explaining the joke anyway.

Sometimes several times over.

Let's just say "it's a compromise solution to a problem unique to highly informal written communications such as forum posts" and leave it at that.

Fabletop
2014-02-20, 09:08 PM
What's the difference between an NPC and GMPC? Not sure I see one.

Some GMs do invest a good level of emotional force in their NPCs. I know I do and I couldn't run games with any sort of passion if my NPCs were just origami.

Part of making NPCs memorable lies in the ref's abiity to invest the required energy needed to bring that character/monster to life before the players' astonished eyes.

That's Roleplaying, no?

Doug Lampert
2014-02-20, 09:14 PM
Sometimes several times over.

Let's just say "it's a compromise solution to a problem unique to highly informal written communications such as forum posts" and leave it at that.

To more or less quote someone else, communication on the internet lacks two things that help identify satire in normal life:
1) All the hints like tone of voice, timing, facial expression, and body language that might help identify sarcasm.
2) The assumption that the other party is sane.

It really is MUCH harder to identify sarcasm and satire on a forum like this.

Mr Beer
2014-02-20, 09:36 PM
To be fair, I'd prefer the joke to be a bit less funny than to have the fact that it's a text-based format cause most people to not get that it's a joke and thus get offended. Which usually results in explaining the joke anyway.

I should mention I don't mind if anyone else blues their post, I just prefer not to myself.

I also don't really care if people get upset because they missed my joke. I guess that sounds callous but I'm not going to drop my standards just because not everyone will get it.

Mr Beer
2014-02-20, 09:39 PM
To more or less quote someone else, communication on the internet lacks two things that help identify satire in normal life:
1) All the hints like tone of voice, timing, facial expression, and body language that might help identify sarcasm.
2) The assumption that the other party is sane.

It really is MUCH harder to identify sarcasm and satire on a forum like this.

I agree it's always harder to detect sarcasm online, however I think it's relative easy on this forum. I post on other forums which have several posters who I think genuinely need psychiatric attention. If you didn't know, you would think they are "obviously" being sarcastic.

Vrock_Summoner
2014-02-20, 10:29 PM
I agree it's always harder to detect sarcasm online, however I think it's relative easy on this forum. I post on other forums which have several posters who I think genuinely need psychiatric attention. If you didn't know, you would think they are "obviously" being sarcastic.

What are you talking about? You have no idea how many things I've laughed at on these forums for their sheer, almost painful levels of intense sarcasm and implied mockery of other peoples' erm, "hindered intelligence"... Only for me to find out they were being serious. It's a sad thing.

Mr Beer
2014-02-20, 10:42 PM
What are you talking about? You have no idea how many things I've laughed at on these forums for their sheer, almost painful levels of intense sarcasm and implied mockery of other peoples' erm, "hindered intelligence"... Only for me to find out they were being serious. It's a sad thing.

Well, then either I'm much better at detecting sarcasm than you or much worse.

AMFV
2014-02-21, 01:09 AM
To be fair, I'd prefer the joke to be a bit less funny than to have the fact that it's a text-based format cause most people to not get that it's a joke and thus get offended. Which usually results in explaining the joke anyway.

There is both sarcasm and satire in print, in non-forum sources. If somebody doesn't get it, that's not really something that bothers me that much, at least to me the idea that somebody would be offended by something is a non-issue, but that's me personally.


Sometimes several times over.

Let's just say "it's a compromise solution to a problem unique to highly informal written communications such as forum posts" and leave it at that.

Again, there are other print media where sarcasm exists, so it has to be detectable in those medium.


To more or less quote someone else, communication on the internet lacks two things that help identify satire in normal life:
1) All the hints like tone of voice, timing, facial expression, and body language that might help identify sarcasm.
2) The assumption that the other party is sane.

It really is MUCH harder to identify sarcasm and satire on a forum like this.

You've clearly not met people that were very good at deadpan sarcasm, if you can pick it out simply by tone of voice or expression. Deadpan sarcasm is pretty nearly an entire sub-genre of humor. It can be difficult to identify, but that doesn't mean that somebody should never be able to use it.

I don't have a problem with other people doing it, well scratch that, it annoys me when other people to do it, blue text is jarring and hard to read, and then it's obvious that somebody is making a joke, and usually that takes away from the bit where I realize that it's humor which is an important part of a sarcasm or satire based joke for me. In my opinion it degrades the quality of the humor, as such I won't use it, although I can't really do much else than this sort of general complaint about other folks using it.

Thinker
2014-02-21, 01:59 AM
Informally it's used for sarcasm, I'll never use it though, since announcing sarcasm is like explaining the joke, and that's just terrible.

That's silly.

TuggyNE
2014-02-21, 06:28 AM
Again, there are other print media where sarcasm exists, so it has to be detectable in those medium.

It is. Those media are not informal like fora; they generally benefit from editors, a consistent authorial tone, clear headlines, and a more or less methodical writing process that can craft words appropriately to get across the desired point. Usually, either the entire work is satire (in which case it should be pretty blatant five paragraphs in), or the sarcasm is used as a spice (in which case it is made more obvious by the careful control of surrounding words).

Forum posts are far more similar to slightly moderated speech patterns; they are generally written in some haste, often with no real editing at all, and the interplay of thoughts is rapid enough on a thread to make the desired subtleties fly past or backfire easily.

A web forum is a very different beast from a book or magazine, basically.


That's silly.



:smallamused:

Tengu_temp
2014-02-21, 06:50 AM
Another member of Anti Blue Text League here. It annoys me when people treat it as an actual forum rule and say things like "I think you forgot to bluetext that". And I think its usage has a very detrimental effect on the user's ability to perceive sarcasm over the internet. I've never seen any other forum or community use blue text, and sometimes they're able to tell when someone is sarcastic.

For example: if you can't tell that everything Thinker said on this page is sarcasm and/or tongue in the cheek, then I can't help you.

TuggyNE
2014-02-21, 07:52 PM
Another member of Anti Blue Text League here. It annoys me when people treat it as an actual forum rule and say things like "I think you forgot to bluetext that". And I think its usage has a very detrimental effect on the user's ability to perceive sarcasm over the internet. I've never seen any other forum or community use blue text, and sometimes they're able to tell when someone is sarcastic.

You know what's really sad?

Usually, "I think you forgot to bluetext that" is itself used for rhetorical effect, and is sarcasm.

The defense rests.

AMFV
2014-02-21, 08:33 PM
You know what's really sad?

Usually, "I think you forgot to bluetext that" is itself used for rhetorical effect, and is sarcasm.

The defense rests.

It can be, although I've seen when it's clearly not. In any case the point is that there are those who are going to like having a better joke and there are those who are going to like having smoother joke-related communication at the expense of the joke itself. I find that it's largely a matter of preference.

BrokenChord
2014-02-21, 08:47 PM
Yes. GMPCs are bad GMing. I said that already, how explicit would you like me to make it?

"No, the kind of fun your table has is bad, playing the way my table plays is better and you're wrong to do anything else. Your group should be playing my way even if you guys wouldn't have as much fun or you're all just wrongbad."

That's how explicit you should make it.

Coidzor
2014-02-21, 09:38 PM
It can be, although I've seen when it's clearly not. In any case the point is that there are those who are going to like having a better joke and there are those who are going to like having smoother joke-related communication at the expense of the joke itself. I find that it's largely a matter of preference.

There are times where there's no point unless the person being snarked at actually realizes they're being snarked at, after all.

TuggyNE
2014-02-21, 11:57 PM
There are times where there's no point unless the person being snarked at actually realizes they're being snarked at, after all.

What are you talking about? Sarcasm is just to make you feel good about how clever you are at slipping something under the radar. I considered leaving that uncolored but frankly I'm afraid that would outsmart myself.