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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Feb 2013

    Default NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    So, in my game sometimes I'll have the group end up having a NPC join up with them. Usually it is just for a short amount of time. However I'm debating whom really should be controlling them in combat, especially in the case of NPCs that do stick around for a long while.
    Now the easy answer is the DM, and certainly it is up to the DM to actually be the one roleplaying them.
    However every DM I've ever had lets players control animal companions, familiars, and the like in combat, and it seems to be pretty common to players control cohorts in combat as well (though obviously the DM can and should rule in certain circumstances such characters might go against their orders). Is it a huge stretch to apply this to other NPC party members?

    Anyone try letting players control NPCs in the party in combat situations before and find it worked well? Or worked horribly?
    The main benefit I see to it is that it takes away that element of the DM sort of "fighting themselves" in combat.
    Last edited by Farastu; 2013-06-04 at 05:33 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    My rule is that if the NPC is attached to a PC as a henchman, hireling, family member, or whatever else, the player of the PC plays them in combat, and sometimes out of combat (except when it's necessary or appropriate for me to step in as GM). If the NPC is not attached to anyone (the rarer circumstance), I usually play them. Not always, though - sometimes I even have a player play an enemy, such as in a duel. (That's how one of my favorite PCs at my table ever lost his hand: I made another player play the orc chieftain he was dueling in the midst of a battle.)

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    Letting the PC play the enemy, at least in combat, could be entertaining as well, with the right group of players, I can imagine it going horribly with a lot of groups though. I think my group might actually do that well though.
    Last edited by Farastu; 2013-06-04 at 07:10 PM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    It's usually hard to abuse. If the player is trying to cheat (intentionally make bad choices, etc.), the GM just says "yeah, bad idea, sorry, I'm in control again."

    The real risk is immature players getting too serious or mad at each other.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhynn View Post
    It's usually hard to abuse. If the player is trying to cheat (intentionally make bad choices, etc.), the GM just says "yeah, bad idea, sorry, I'm in control again."

    The real risk is immature players getting too serious or mad at each other.
    This. Another option is to use the other players at the table for input, "Hmm... I don't think she'd do that. What do you guys think?"

    But if you're at all comfortable with the players handling it, I would recommend it. Anything that takes load off of the GM ultimately speeds up the whole game.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    TheCountAlucard's Avatar

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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    In combat, I agree with the "is it part of the PC?" idea. If the NPC is part of the PC's followers, cult, retinue, henchmen, et cetera, then it's that player's responsibility, just like a familiar. One exception I make is with allies and/or mentors, because characters that equal or surpass the PC likely have powers on par with the PC for complexity, and thus might add too much to the player's workload.
    It is inevitable, of course, that persons of epicurean refinement will in the course of eternity engage in dealings with those of... unsavory character. Record well any transactions made, and repay all favors promptly.. (Thanks to Gnomish Wanderer for the Toreador avatar! )

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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    personally, the way I look at it is:

    if it's a class feature (animal companion, familiar, paladin's mount, etc.) it's under the player's control, totally.

    if it's not (i.e. leadership) then it's under mine.

    period.

    prevents the "what the hell!?" reaction when the player's minion/hireling/fanatic follower/whatever all of a sudden goes "hell no, I ain't doin that." when up until they've been totally compliant.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    I'm thinking I am going to go with the players controlling (in combat situations) characters gained through the leadership feat, and maybe certain other long term NPCs as well, and for them to be able to of course suggest actions outside of combat. There seems to be more arguments for it than against it. This is a group that will realize that any two characters aren't necessarily going to 100% agree with one another (heck, even a familiar and its master can in some situations clash), and they'll get that minions do have their own personalities and I tend to make it fairly clear what sort of things will set them off in a bad way.

    Having minions and the like suddenly be non-compliant just totally out of the blue, wouldn't in the vast majority of cases be realistic so I wouldn't have that happen (and even if it seemed to be noncompliant behavior just suddenly and unexpectedly out of no where there would have to in fact be a very specific reason behind it).
    Last edited by Farastu; 2013-06-07 at 04:15 PM.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    The players run their entire party. I have veto over NPC actions, and will use it based on morale throws and/or common sense.

    The exception is when I know what an NPC's motivations are. And I even let them run the character then, until it's time.

    In a game a few years ago, the players ran all their "hirelings" until the night they let the wrong two stand guard alone. Then those two stole what they were there to steal and left.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Alaris's Avatar

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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    I'm sort of the opposite... I've never had a DM that has allowed me (or other players) to run Familiars/Animal Companions/Cohorts in combat. Now don't get me wrong... these entities are usually considered Loyal, so they'll usually listen to the PC if the PC gives an order... but the PC isn't in direct control.

    As a DM, I don't allow it either. If a PC takes Leadership, they inform me what kind of NPC they are looking for (Class-Wise and Race-Wise), and I'll write something up. They get a personality all their own, and a character sheet all their own, run by me personally. For all intents and purposes, it is a Character all it's own... and while it is loyal to the person with Leadership, he or she can make their own choices.

    And I certainly would never let them control an NPC (even just in combat) who isn't there due to some special effect (Leadership/Familiar/Animal Companion). Those are NPCs with purpose, and under the preview of the Dungeon Master.

    This is all my opinion of course... a PC should be controlling a PC, and that is all. I'm not going to **** them over with a disloyal minion (unless they have been particularly rude/mean to said minion).

    I do allow PCs to control monsters they summon (through Summon Monster/Nature's Ally, not through Gate/Planar Ally), but that's just common sense.

    Again, this is all my opinion and how I run things... none of my Players have complained about it... so I figure I must be doing something right. ^_^
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  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    I let the whole player group discuss and agree what allied NPC will do in combat - but retain the right to veto any action for plot or stupidity.

    Works well for us. We've even used this for RP when the allied NPC is the only one talking with an antagonist / unfamiliar NPC.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
    because characters that equal or surpass the PC likely have powers on par with the PC for complexity, and thus might add too much to the player's workload.
    Unlike the GM's workload, which includes said characters, all monsters in all encounters, continuity, exposition, arbitration, creation, preperation and sometimes (hopefully rarely) babysitting the players?


  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    I let a PC run the NPC. Which PC gets to do it? Whomever is the most bored. If someone is left out of a scene, or we have spectator, or somebody got dominated, they get to play the NPC as a consolation prize. Keeps them from getting too bored if I feel like using abilities that deny their actions.

    If I trust my PCs I'll even let them control enemies.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    TheCountAlucard's Avatar

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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    Quote Originally Posted by BWR View Post
    Unlike the GM's workload, which includes said characters, all monsters in all encounters, continuity, exposition, arbitration, creation, preperation and sometimes (hopefully rarely) babysitting the players?
    If a GM plays five hundred NPCs, one more is an insignificant percentage.

    Whereas a player plays one PC; one more is doubling it.
    It is inevitable, of course, that persons of epicurean refinement will in the course of eternity engage in dealings with those of... unsavory character. Record well any transactions made, and repay all favors promptly.. (Thanks to Gnomish Wanderer for the Toreador avatar! )

    Wanna see what all this Exalted stuff is about? Here's a primer!

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
    If a GM plays five hundred NPCs, one more is an insignificant percentage.

    Whereas a player plays one PC; one more is doubling it.
    This is overstated.

    I started DMing in the 1970s, and have never controlled five hundred NPCs as individuals. I have played units of up to 800, but that's not 800 spearate decisions.

    Running ten individuals with ten different motivations is pretty rare. Usually every guardsman or bugbear is doing pretty much the same thing, with pretty much the same equipment. There's often one major NPC and several fairly similar minions, but that is nowhere near as hard as running the same number of PCS with varying equipment, races, and classes.

    However, when I'm running ten minions, one more is a 10% increase, whereas a player is doubling her workload.

    That doesn't say that a player can't do it, of course. It's still far less work than the DM has. And next week, the player may be the DM running ten minions.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    However, when I'm running ten minions, one more is a 10% increase, whereas a player is doubling her workload.
    On the other hand, the GM may be going from 100% capacity to 110% capacity, while the player would be going from 10% to 20% ... or, if we assume PCs are five times as complicated to run in combat, 50% to 60% capacity.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    TheCountAlucard's Avatar

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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    I dunno; sometimes you can barely count on a player to keep a handle on his own character. Doubly so for casters, and even more so for games with fiddly systems.

    "Um, what's my attack bonus again?"
    "I cast a spell! What do you mean, 'which one?'"
    Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 2013-06-09 at 08:23 AM.
    It is inevitable, of course, that persons of epicurean refinement will in the course of eternity engage in dealings with those of... unsavory character. Record well any transactions made, and repay all favors promptly.. (Thanks to Gnomish Wanderer for the Toreador avatar! )

    Wanna see what all this Exalted stuff is about? Here's a primer!

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: NPC/(DM)PC question (regarding combat and who controls them)

    If your players are inexperienced, fine. Help them out. If they are like this all the time, then they might want to reconsider their hobby.

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