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    Default GM's-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    So, a lot of the discussion on DMPCs and god NPCs has been hampered by a confusion of terms, and a tendency to conflate subtly different phenomena. Let's see if we can't standardize a better set of terms.

    The principle I'm using for this draft is to distinguish all the new terms from any of the old terms, to make it clear that none of the old confusions should linger. Not all of these terms apply to any of the existing DMPC/GMPC/DMNPC definitions, which is intentional; the goal is not merely to replace, but to expand.

    • PC: A character run by a player, one of the focus points and key protagonists of the story, by the central conceit of TTRPGs. As such, generally of greater mechanical effectiveness and initiative-taking than most NPCs.
    • GM's-PC: A player (or personal) character that's a standard member of the party in essentially all ways, except that the GM is running it. All involved openly recognize that this is a GM-run PC.
    • S-GM's-PC: Secretly a GM's PC. When an NPC built to the same or superior mechanical and story involvement standards as a PC accompanies (or leads) the party for a substantial length of time at the GM's suggestion, urging or insistence.
    • God-NPC: These do not usually accompany the party, but are always substantially superior to the party in sheer mechanical ability. Distinguished from ordinary powerful NPCs in that the story focuses substantially on what they instruct and accomplish and desire. (BBEGs get a free pass.)
    • Quest-NPC: Questgiver NPCs need or want something from the party, and are willing to give them something in exchange for this. Can range from a merchant with a kidnapped son or daughter to a great wizard who needs the keystone for a fiendish invasion destroyed while they fight a delaying action. Generally, circumstances act to somewhat equalize any negotiations (beggers can't be choosers, after all), or even put them at the PCs' mercy.
    • Escortee-NPC: A subvariety of Quest-NPCs; their quest is to be protected while on a journey or during a particular period of time. Especially merchants, caravans, etc. Sometimes highly plot-important, but often not.
    • Companion-NPC: An NPC that accompanies the party at their behest and is characterized by (usually) lesser character power and a general willingness to go along with whatever the party plans. Hirelings, cohorts, followers, and many NPC allies fit this.
    • Background-NPC: Just whatever random city guards, dirt farmers, courtiers, or tavern maids populate the world at large.


    Or, in table form:
    Name Power Agency* Plot Focus Party Member OOC Agreement** IC Agreement*** Role
    PC Mid, sometimes High High Yes Full (usually) Partial Protagonist
    GM's-PC Roughly PC Mid Mid Yes Partial or full Partial or none Protagonist
    S-GM's-PC PC or greater Mid-High Mid-High Yes None or partial Usually none Supporting (Protagonist)
    God-NPC Much greater Mid-High Mid-High No None None Supporting
    Quest-NPC Varies Low-Mid Low-Mid No None Partial or none Supporting
    Escortee-NPC Less Low-Mid Varies Briefly None Partial or full Supporting
    Companion-NPC Usually less Low Low Yes Partial or full Partial or full Supporting
    Background-NPC Usually much less Low Low or None No None Partial or full Supporting
    * The ability to direct the flow of the game in various ways, on a scale of Low = city guard, hireling, or Leadership'd cohort; Mid = ordinary PC with fairly normal player; and High = PC with extremely pushy player, BBEG, or Elminster/Gandalf-style well-meaning meddler NPC.
    ** Whether the players agree freely ahead of time (full), agree with some reservations or with social pressure (partial) or don't get a chance to agree at all (none)
    *** Can the players kill them, leave them, ignore them, or otherwise veto their presence and actions?


    A given character may in some cases move from one category to a different one; for example, switching GMs may lead to a PC becoming a GM's-PC, or vice versa; an apparent Background-NPC may take on an unexpected role, becoming a Companion-NPC or Quest-NPC as circumstances change; and it is sometimes the case that an apparent God-NPC or S-GM's-PC is actually a BBEG in disguise.

    I've tried to make this ontology as evenhanded, understandable, and complete as possible. However, suggestions for better names for any of these, or additional criteria that should be included, are welcome. The table also could use a bit of reorganization I think.
    Last edited by TuggyNE; 2014-04-01 at 05:06 AM. Reason: Fixing tables
    Quote Originally Posted by Water_Bear View Post
    That's RAW for you; 100% Rules-Legal, 110% silly.
    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    "Common sense" and "RAW" are not exactly on speaking terms
    Projects: Homebrew, Gentlemen's Agreement, DMPCs, Forbidden Knowledge safety, and Top Ten Worst. Also, Quotes and RACSD are good.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Thanks for starting this thread. As a person who has tried to reconcile definitions in DMPC threads, I appreciate the effort to give us a reference point.

    I like the look of these categories, but I'm a little confused about one of the distinctions. Could you please clarify what the difference between a DM-PC and a TN-PC is?
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Looking at the table I would say the most significant distinction between the two is approval by the whole group.

    Oh and of course the powerlevel, a NPC that hangs around despite the party wishes is either more or equally powerful as the PCs else they could boss him around ^^ (ie no you stay in the camp while we clear the dungeon, see you in 8 hours!)... while the agreed upon DM-PC will have slightly lower or the same powerlevel in general.

    The TNPC tags along despite no one or a minority wanting him to be there while the DMPC has the approval to come along by the whole or a majority of the players.

    I like the categories so far.
    Last edited by Emmerask; 2013-10-20 at 06:46 PM.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    Thanks for starting this thread. As a person who has tried to reconcile definitions in DMPC threads, I appreciate the effort to give us a reference point.

    I like the look of these categories, but I'm a little confused about one of the distinctions. Could you please clarify what the difference between a DM-PC and a TN-PC is?
    Emmerask has a lot of it, but the root distinction that I started with is that a DM-PC is one where the DM says something like "hey guys, I was thinking of running a PC because {I want to play too|you guys are short-handed|it's custom to run a DM-PC|whatever other reason" and then the rest of the group says "OK, whatever" or "sure, sounds great!". A TN-PC is one where the DM brings in an NPC that turns out to be, in all ways but name and person running it, a PC; generally in this case there's little or no prior approval by the group as a whole. If you talk to the DM about it, a DM-PC will be described as a DM-PC, but a TN-PC will be described as a totally legitimate NPC.

    I'll see if I can condense that down in the OP to make the point a bit clearer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmerask View Post
    Looking at the table I would say the most significant distinction between the two is approval by the whole group.
    Approval and knowledge, yes.

    Oh and of course the powerlevel, a NPC that hangs around despite the party wishes is either more or equally powerful as the PCs else they could boss him around ^^ (ie no you stay in the camp while we clear the dungeon, see you in 8 hours!)... while the agreed upon DM-PC will have slightly lower or the same powerlevel in general.

    The TNPC tags along despite no one or a minority wanting him to be there while the DMPC has the approval to come along by the whole or a majority of the players.
    Pretty much, yeah. In-character and out of it, the PCs and players would have a hard time getting rid of the TN-PC. It might or might not actually be impossible to do without getting rid of the DM, depending on the case.

    I like the categories so far.
    Awesome! Let me know if there's any other stuff to add or clarify or whatever.
    Quote Originally Posted by Water_Bear View Post
    That's RAW for you; 100% Rules-Legal, 110% silly.
    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    "Common sense" and "RAW" are not exactly on speaking terms
    Projects: Homebrew, Gentlemen's Agreement, DMPCs, Forbidden Knowledge safety, and Top Ten Worst. Also, Quotes and RACSD are good.

    Anyone knows blue is for sarcas'ing in · "Take 10 SAN damage from Dark Orchid" · Use of gray may indicate nitpicking · Green is sincerity

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Just out of curiosity what would this character fall under?

    I gave the party a sentient golem that they could 'upgrade' to act as a tank. She was not controlled by the PCs directly, but had little sapience, and understanding of the world (not knowing what money is for instance).

    Of course the PCs decided to pump almost all of their loot into making her into a god-tier combat droid that makes Megaman look like a wimp.

    I'm not joking! She killed the final boss in one punch!

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by Morithias View Post
    Just out of curiosity what would this character fall under?

    I gave the party a sentient golem that they could 'upgrade' to act as a tank. She was not controlled by the PCs directly, but had little sapience, and understanding of the world (not knowing what money is for instance).

    Of course the PCs decided to pump almost all of their loot into making her into a god-tier combat droid that makes Megaman look like a wimp.

    I'm not joking! She killed the final boss in one punch!
    Per the table, this would be Power: >>, Agency: Low, Plot Focus: Low (?), and Party Member: Yes, and OOC Agreement: Full. Other than the power level this fits well with P-NPC, so I'd just file it as an exception for now. (Actually, power level is probably the metric with the most exceptions. Hmm.)

    I've thought about expanding the table to account for all possible combinations, observed or unobserved, but right now it's a little too messy for that, so that'll have to wait.
    Quote Originally Posted by Water_Bear View Post
    That's RAW for you; 100% Rules-Legal, 110% silly.
    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    "Common sense" and "RAW" are not exactly on speaking terms
    Projects: Homebrew, Gentlemen's Agreement, DMPCs, Forbidden Knowledge safety, and Top Ten Worst. Also, Quotes and RACSD are good.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    I think you should discriminate between Protagonists, Supporting Characters and Antagonists.

    This is the difference for me.

    DMPCs are Protagonists and hence Mary Sues (Please read the actual definition).

    The DM should run the Supporting Characters and the Antagonists; though some Supporting Characters can be farmed out.

    The DM is also the principle Narrator, though the players should take a piece of this also.
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by nedz View Post
    I think you should discriminate between Protagonists, Supporting Characters and Antagonists.

    This is the difference for me.
    A useful distinction, but it does not by itself capture the full range of differences here.

    DMPCs are Protagonists and hence Mary Sues (Please read the actual definition).
    DM-PCs certainly are protagonists. TN-PCs may be labeled as supporting characters but are probably protagonists just the same. G-NPCs are definitely supporting characters, but could still be considered problematic despite that.

    However, strictly speaking "Mary Sue" is a poor fit; games are not fan fiction, and DM-PCs, TN-PCs, and G-NPCs need not be idealized forms of the DM, self-inserts in any way, or even really idealized. Potential problems come not chiefly from literary considerations, but from the nature of being a game.

    The DM should run the Supporting Characters and the Antagonists; though some Supporting Characters can be farmed out.

    The DM is also the principle Narrator, though the players should take a piece of this also.
    *Principal. But yes.
    Last edited by TuggyNE; 2013-10-20 at 08:18 PM. Reason: Quote tags, my old enemy
    Quote Originally Posted by Water_Bear View Post
    That's RAW for you; 100% Rules-Legal, 110% silly.
    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    "Common sense" and "RAW" are not exactly on speaking terms
    Projects: Homebrew, Gentlemen's Agreement, DMPCs, Forbidden Knowledge safety, and Top Ten Worst. Also, Quotes and RACSD are good.

    Anyone knows blue is for sarcas'ing in · "Take 10 SAN damage from Dark Orchid" · Use of gray may indicate nitpicking · Green is sincerity

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    I must be one of the only vocal pro-DMPC members of the Playground, so I'll take this up as usual:

    Quote Originally Posted by nedz View Post
    ... This is the difference for me.

    DMPCs are Protagonists and hence Mary Sues (Please read the actual definition).

    The DM should run the Supporting Characters and the Antagonists; though some Supporting Characters can be farmed out.

    The DM is also the principle Narrator, though the players should take a piece of this also.
    "In fan fiction, a Mary Sue is an idealized character representing the author." [quoted definition]

    That's not a DMPC. It's surprisingly simple what a DMPC is, and Tuggy got it right in the first post: a DMPC is a PC played by the DM. That's all. Like the banker in Monopoly, the DM of this game has the dual roles of player and DM, which reside in the same person but do not cross over.

    A DMPC is in no way a Mary Sue by definition, certainly not by the definition you linked to. I have personally never seen a DM play a self-insertion character as their PC. I suppose it probably happens, but not any more than any other PC.

    I think what a lot of the anti-DMPC sentiment comes down to is either a) lack of understanding regarding how a DM can effectively run one, or b) lack of belief that a typical DM can effectively run one. B is likely true in many cases.

    For a DM to be able to effectively run a DMPC as though they were a normal PC, that person must be capable of compartmentalizing their roles internally, so that when playing the character they do not access the knowledge that is in their brain about the dungeon, and when running the game they do not think of their character any differently than the rest. If done properly, it should be so that there is no distinguishable difference between the DM's character and that of any other player.

    Although the DM must perforce hold back their character on some tasks (puzzle solving, for example) this only punishes the DM; their character should never cause the other players to lose enjoyment by their presence. An experienced DM, I feel, is capable of playing their character in a puzzle solving (riddles, word puzzles, what have you) environment without breaking the equality of their character by coming up with either reasonable but wrong guesses or hunches or alternatively nudging the players in the correct direction but letting them make the final connection. The second technique is mostly for if they're struggling with the puzzle.

    Personal Experience: Played in games, both as DM and player, with DMPCs since AD&D v1 - and still do to this day. Most of the time it's been with a small group with an insufficient number to make a good party without the DM chipping in, but another situation where DMPCs make a great deal of sense is with a consistent world that has rotating DMs - the player who is DMing at the time keeps their PCs and plays them in their own campaign, and then when it moves on to the next player they resume their other role as someone else steps up to DM. As long as you have skilled and mature role-players and especially the DM(s), it works just fine.

    As a side note, I personally deplore the habit of DMs giving the control of an NPC over to the party or leaving them limp and unresponsive when not engaged in melee. It kills my immersion in the game on a level that an overpowered NPC never can.

    Quote Originally Posted by TuggyNE View Post
    *Principal. But yes.
    Since the DM makes the call on alignment, changes, and effects, it's arguable that he's both...
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by Exediron View Post
    I must be one of the only vocal pro-DMPC members of the Playground...
    One more, sounding off \o Although I'd actually call myself non-anti-DMPC - I consider DMPCs/DM-PCs to be a neutral feature, a tool that can be used or misused or abused or poorly applied just like any other aspect of the game. There are a few of us around. I just haven't been participating much lately, though if you google "Serpentine DMPC site:giantitp.com" you'll probably find plenty of stuff I've said I was even considering writing a "Guide To Good DMPCs" a while ago...

    Anyways, yeah, this seems alright, though good luck getting it to stick. I've actually tended to replace the "P" in "DMPC" with "Personal" - the "Dungeon Master's Personal Character", since often the semantic argument is "a DM can't have a Player Character because they're not a "player"".

    So yeah. This more or less has the Serpentine Stamp of Approval, if this means anything to people from the Great DMPC Wars of a year or so back.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by Exediron View Post
    "In fan fiction, a Mary Sue is an idealized character representing the author." [quoted definition]

    A DMPC is in no way a Mary Sue by definition, certainly not by the definition you linked to. I have personally never seen a DM play a self-insertion character as their PC. I suppose it probably happens, but not any more than any other PC.
    I don't agree with that definition. Not every self-insert is a Mary Sue, and not every Mary Sue is a self-insert - even if there's significant overlap.

    A Mary Sue is a character around who the world revolves. Everything is about her and how awesome/powerful/positive quality of choice she is. Also even more importantly and tellingly, she twists the narrative around herself. The disagreeable support her, the hard-to-impress praise her, the troubled dark antagonist falls in love with her. This is not limited to interactions with people, in action too the Mary Sue achieves what is impossible for others. That both means one-upping player characters and breaking rules of the game - no one can have wings, but this character does for example.

    Under that definition, there's quite a lot more DMPCs who are also Mary Sues. Or as the OP calls them, TN-PCs/G-NPCs.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by Serpentine View Post
    I was even considering writing a "Guide To Good DMPCs" a while ago...
    Consider it again!

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by Exediron View Post
    I think what a lot of the anti-DMPC sentiment comes down to is either a) lack of understanding regarding how a DM can effectively run one, or b) lack of belief that a typical DM can effectively run one. [… snip …]
    For what it's worth, this thread isn't primarily intended to work out whether DM-PCs, TN-PCs, G-NPCs, or any other variety of NPC or PC is a good or bad idea.

    Instead, I'd first like to sort out as best we can just what terms we should use, and then work from there.

    Since the DM makes the call on alignment, changes, and effects, it's arguable that he's both...
    I suppose, but in this context….

    Quote Originally Posted by Serpentine View Post
    One more, sounding off \o Although I'd actually call myself non-anti-DMPC - I consider DMPCs/DM-PCs to be a neutral feature, a tool that can be used or misused or abused or poorly applied just like any other aspect of the game. There are a few of us around. I just haven't been participating much lately, though if you google "Serpentine DMPC site:giantitp.com" you'll probably find plenty of stuff I've said I was even considering writing a "Guide To Good DMPCs" a while ago...
    You might be gratified to note that your various posts helped clarify the distinction between DM-PC and the other varieties here.

    Anyways, yeah, this seems alright, though good luck getting it to stick. I've actually tended to replace the "P" in "DMPC" with "Personal" - the "Dungeon Master's Personal Character", since often the semantic argument is "a DM can't have a Player Character because they're not a "player"".
    I find that argument lacking, personally; players can (mostly) control NPCs like cohorts, so why can't a DM, who is certainly "playing the game" in some sense, control a PC?

    Whether they should is of course a different matter, but it's not a question of possibility to my mind.

    So yeah. This more or less has the Serpentine Stamp of Approval, if this means anything to people from the Great DMPC Wars of a year or so back.
    Heh. Thanks.

    Any specific ideas on polish or more nuances to include?

    Quote Originally Posted by tensai_oni View Post
    I don't agree with that definition. Not every self-insert is a Mary Sue, and not every Mary Sue is a self-insert - even if there's significant overlap.

    A Mary Sue is a character around who the world revolves. Everything is about her and how awesome/powerful/positive quality of choice she is. Also even more importantly and tellingly, she twists the narrative around herself. The disagreeable support her, the hard-to-impress praise her, the troubled dark antagonist falls in love with her. This is not limited to interactions with people, in action too the Mary Sue achieves what is impossible for others. That both means one-upping player characters and breaking rules of the game - no one can have wings, but this character does for example.

    Under that definition, there's quite a lot more DMPCs who are also Mary Sues. Or as the OP calls them, TN-PCs/G-NPCs.
    Aye. However, this illustrates one of the dangers of using terminology like Mary Sue (or DMPC): there's a lot of somewhat contradictory and decidedly incomplete definitions floating around, based more on rhetorical needs of the moment than on study and careful consideration. So you end up having to clarify several times over just what sort of Mary Sue you meant (Black Hole Sue? Einstein Sue? Self-insert? "Classic"? Canon Sue?), and what that entails, until eventually the discussion gets all jumbled by different people arguing for different definitions and (often rightly) criticizing aspects of one definition that don't apply to the one intended.
    Quote Originally Posted by Water_Bear View Post
    That's RAW for you; 100% Rules-Legal, 110% silly.
    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    "Common sense" and "RAW" are not exactly on speaking terms
    Projects: Homebrew, Gentlemen's Agreement, DMPCs, Forbidden Knowledge safety, and Top Ten Worst. Also, Quotes and RACSD are good.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by IronFist View Post
    Consider it again!
    Mreh. Maybe as a holiday project - but I already have roughly a million of those.

    Quote Originally Posted by TuggyNE View Post
    You might be gratified to note that your various posts helped clarify the distinction between DM-PC and the other varieties here.
    Aww yiss

    Quote Originally Posted by TuggyNE View Post
    I find that argument lacking, personally; players can (mostly) control NPCs like cohorts, so why can't a DM, who is certainly "playing the game" in some sense, control a PC?

    Whether they should is of course a different matter, but it's not a question of possibility to my mind.
    Oh yeah, so do I, most definitely - starting with the idea that DMs aren't also players, and going up. I just find it an occasionally useful side-step.

    Quote Originally Posted by TuggyNE View Post
    Heh. Thanks.

    Any specific ideas on polish or more nuances to include?
    I dunno... You could go into (actual and perceived) purpose of the character (fill a role hole, give the DM a playing outlet, keep the party on the rails, let the DM be awesome, be a foil to the other PCs, etc), but that's probably getting too complicated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tensai_oni View Post
    I don't agree with that definition. Not every self-insert is a Mary Sue, and not every Mary Sue is a self-insert - even if there's significant overlap.

    A Mary Sue is a character around who the world revolves. Everything is about her and how awesome/powerful/positive quality of choice she is. Also even more importantly and tellingly, she twists the narrative around herself. The disagreeable support her, the hard-to-impress praise her, the troubled dark antagonist falls in love with her. This is not limited to interactions with people, in action too the Mary Sue achieves what is impossible for others. That both means one-upping player characters and breaking rules of the game - no one can have wings, but this character does for example.

    Under that definition, there's quite a lot more DMPCs who are also Mary Sues. Or as the OP calls them, TN-PCs/G-NPCs.
    I'd consider Mary Sue to be more a writing style than a character trait. The key aspect of a Sue isn't how powerful they are, but how they are challenged and how other characters react to them. The Mary Sue never really has any meaningful challenge, any sort of "defeats" just highlight their virtues, and they are universally liked with the exception of key unpleasant antagonists.

    In this case, you'd see a lot of TN-PCs and G-NPCs as the Mary Sues of the campaign. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of them do fall into the Mary Sue category of being capable of anything and just guiding the party "because". Not always, mind you; you can have exceptional crafters or lorekeepers or even archmages who are busy keeping the campaign plot from falling apart. But I've seen a lot of them who are very Sue-like.

    DM-PCs tend to mostly not be Sues, from what I've seen. Most of the time, you have the DM run the character either to give a build a try or to support a party, and they tend to not be much better than the PCs and fail just as often. They can fall into Mary Sue territory, especially when they're "unusually awesome" or something similar, but that isn't as common as you'd think.


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    More on topic, I'm finding the distinction to be a bit of alphabet soup. I can appreciate wanting to make a distinction (although I have no clue what prompted this) but the TN-PC, G-NPC, and P-NPC meaning are not immediately obvious at first glance. DM-PC (or GM-PC) is clear, as it's a combination of to well-known terms. P-NPC is something I'd probably just call a "Companion-NPC", as that is what they are: a companion to the group. "Sage-NPC" would probably be the best description of the G-NPC, because their purpose in the game is to despense information and missions to the PCs. Whether they are the Sorcerer-King or the arcane blacksmith, their purpose is to distinctly not be adventuring and either use or provide the PCs with adventures to go on instead.

    I'm not sure what I'd call the TN-PC. They're basically a high powered DM-PC, and I'm not quite sure why you'd want one in the first place. I'm also not sure if a higher level DM-PC needs a separate name. Perhaps something like "Powerful DM-PC" or "Overleveled DM-PC", or more preferably something that means "much stronger than others in the group." After all, the character operates in much the same way as the DM-PC does. The biggest difference is that it's stronger than the PCs, and influences the story in that method.

    Why would you want such a character in the party for a prolonged period of time?
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    P-NPC is something I'd probably just call a "Companion-NPC", as that is what they are: a companion to the group.
    I'd just call it a henchman. It's not even a DMPC sub-type, just a low powered NPC hired by players/

    "Sage-NPC" would probably be the best description of the G-NPC, because their purpose in the game is to despense information and missions to the PCs. Whether they are the Sorcerer-King or the arcane blacksmith, their purpose is to distinctly not be adventuring and either use or provide the PCs with adventures to go on instead.
    No, I think you misunderstood what the G-NPC is. It's not the quest giver who has a lot of power but doesn't use it. The GNPC uses its power A LOT - mainly to one up the players. Consider the classic scenario:

    1. Bad situation, players are in way over their heads
    2. Seemingly no way to win here
    3. Suddenly, a random stranger appears and saves the day!
    4. Spotlight stolen, everyone feels cheated except the game master

    This is the G-NPC.

    (About TN-PC)
    Why would you want such a character in the party for a prolonged period of time?
    As a player, you don't. This is why there is partial OOC agreement between the game master and players at best. From my experience, often there is no agreement at all.

    TN-PC and G-NPC are an inherently bad thing and a game shouldn't have them.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Woo, got another column and three more rows on that there table.

    Also, expanded the existing definitions a bit, reworded things here and there, that kind of thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Serpentine View Post
    I dunno... You could go into (actual and perceived) purpose of the character (fill a role hole, give the DM a playing outlet, keep the party on the rails, let the DM be awesome, be a foil to the other PCs, etc), but that's probably getting too complicated.
    Yeah, right now I'm trying to work out solid terms for the four identified types, and expand the table to cover possible others.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    More on topic, I'm finding the distinction to be a bit of alphabet soup. I can appreciate wanting to make a distinction (although I have no clue what prompted this) but the TN-PC, G-NPC, and P-NPC meaning are not immediately obvious at first glance. DM-PC (or GM-PC) is clear, as it's a combination of to well-known terms. P-NPC is something I'd probably just call a "Companion-NPC", as that is what they are: a companion to the group. "Sage-NPC" would probably be the best description of the G-NPC, because their purpose in the game is to despense information and missions to the PCs. Whether they are the Sorcerer-King or the arcane blacksmith, their purpose is to distinctly not be adventuring and either use or provide the PCs with adventures to go on instead.
    The acronyms were (perhaps semi-consciously) inspired by the current four-letter acronym that most use. I'm not wedded to that by any means, though, and if you have more suggestions, go for it.

    As tensai_oni mentioned, though, you appear to have misapprehended the nature of the G-NPC. I should try rephrasing/expanding that section.

    I'm not sure what I'd call the TN-PC. They're basically a high powered DM-PC, and I'm not quite sure why you'd want one in the first place. I'm also not sure if a higher level DM-PC needs a separate name. Perhaps something like "Powerful DM-PC" or "Overleveled DM-PC", or more preferably something that means "much stronger than others in the group." After all, the character operates in much the same way as the DM-PC does. The biggest difference is that it's stronger than the PCs, and influences the story in that method.
    Well, and unacknowledged/unasked-for.

    Why would you want such a character in the party for a prolonged period of time?
    The party usually doesn't. However, analysis of the motivations of the party allowing it is likely misplaced, as tensai_oni has rather ably explained; it's an idea the DM has and enacts essentially on their own.

    Quote Originally Posted by tensai_oni View Post
    I'd just call it a henchman. It's not even a DMPC sub-type, just a low powered NPC hired by players
    It only gains honorary listing in this topic by virtue of being commonly confused with some of the milder forms of *-PC. Might include a few other listings of things that are obviously not DMPCs of any variety, for completeness and clarity.

    No, I think you misunderstood what the G-NPC is. It's not the quest giver who has a lot of power but doesn't use it. The GNPC uses its power A LOT - mainly to one up the players. Consider the classic scenario:

    1. Bad situation, players are in way over their heads
    2. Seemingly no way to win here
    3. Suddenly, a random stranger appears and saves the day!
    4. Spotlight stolen, everyone feels cheated except the game master

    This is the G-NPC.

    As a player, you don't. This is why there is partial OOC agreement between the game master and players at best. From my experience, often there is no agreement at all.

    TN-PC and G-NPC are an inherently bad thing and a game shouldn't have them.
    I must admit, that's pretty much my opinion of those types, and doubtless a certain amount of that slipped through the descriptions. Still, hopefully the descriptions are clear enough that the distaste comes from the observed reality, not my rhetoric.
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Very nice work TuggyNE, great initiative!

    As with everything though, there are some problems where things start to overlap or where you missed some things that can occur.

    For example, what if the player characters take on an ally that is essentially more powerful than themselves to help them achieve their goal? This is an NPC that was constructed as slightly more powerful by the DM but not meant to be part of the party but due to allowing players high agency and their creative persuasion they now have the help of said NPC. It can't be a G-NPC according to your definition and it's not really a DM-PC either, nor is it a P- or C-NPC (I prefer the C myself). So where is it?

    Also, taking on companions with equal powerlevel to the PCs is something I've found to be fairly common in certain campaigns with very small group of players (1-2) to fill up some supportive roles or simply because the characters liked to have them around.

    There should be something like "F-NPC", a friendly NPC that the player characters can utilize if they want that may be of any powerlevel, have any form of story involvement but only be involved to the degree that the players and their characters want.
    Last edited by Lorsa; 2013-10-21 at 05:46 AM.
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by tensai_oni View Post
    I don't agree with that definition. Not every self-insert is a Mary Sue, and not every Mary Sue is a self-insert - even if there's significant overlap.

    A Mary Sue is a character around who the world revolves. Everything is about her and how awesome/powerful/positive quality of choice she is. Also even more importantly and tellingly, she twists the narrative around herself. The disagreeable support her, the hard-to-impress praise her, the troubled dark antagonist falls in love with her. This is not limited to interactions with people, in action too the Mary Sue achieves what is impossible for others. That both means one-upping player characters and breaking rules of the game - no one can have wings, but this character does for example.

    Under that definition, there's quite a lot more DMPCs who are also Mary Sues. Or as the OP calls them, TN-PCs/G-NPCs.
    So basically you want to use a different definition of a Mary Sue compared to how most people define it. That's certainly okay but not very constructive to communication. My suggestion would be to come up with another definition for the concept you are describing as Mary Sue is already taken.
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    Very nice work TuggyNE, great initiative!
    Thanky!

    As with everything though, there are some problems where things start to overlap or where you missed some things that can occur.
    Indeed.

    For example, what if the player characters take on an ally that is essentially more powerful than themselves to help them achieve their goal? This is an NPC that was constructed as slightly more powerful by the DM but not meant to be part of the party but due to allowing players high agency and their creative persuasion they now have the help of said NPC. It can't be a G-NPC according to your definition and it's not really a DM-PC either, nor is it a P- or C-NPC (I prefer the C myself). So where is it?

    Also, taking on companions with equal powerlevel to the PCs is something I've found to be fairly common in certain campaigns with very small group of players (1-2) to fill up some supportive roles or simply because the characters liked to have them around.

    There should be something like "F-NPC", a friendly NPC that the player characters can utilize if they want that may be of any powerlevel, have any form of story involvement but only be involved to the degree that the players and their characters want.
    Hmm. I think for now it fits best in an expansion of C/P-NPC, but I might revisit that later.

    Those that have substantially more story involvement would need more description to be stuck in properly.

    Edit: Just realized I never did address this:
    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I can appreciate wanting to make a distinction (although I have no clue what prompted this)
    It's been simmering in my notebook and the back of my mind for a few months now (in strictly skeletal form, consisting of nothing more than the title), but a few days ago I saw another thread that triggered more thoughts on this and finally the crucial division of four.
    Last edited by TuggyNE; 2013-10-21 at 06:19 AM.
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Something that might be worth noting is that these characters can actually move from one category to another. Just a few possible examples:

    - A player takes on the role of DM, and takes their character with them: PC -> DM-PC.
    - A DM takes on a DM-PC with the blessing of their players. To start with it's fine, but over time the DM gets caught up in their character, starts "allowing" build features that other players would have a hard time getting, starts hogging the spotlight more than they should: DM-PC -> TN-PC
    - A kindly old man has been giving the party advice for a while, but then circumstances arise that oblige the party to take him with them. At that point they discover that the old man is super-duper powerful and keeps showing them up and grabbing all the best loot. The PCs - and players - get annoyed at the character, and then suddenly he is revealed to have been the evil wizard they're trying to hunt all along: Q-NPC -> TN-PC -> BBEG/G-NPC (at least from the perspective of the players)

    Just a thought.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by Serpentine View Post
    if this means anything to people from the Great DMPC Wars of a year or so back.
    You've obviously been away from the 3.5 sub forum recently

    Quote Originally Posted by TuggyNE View Post
    For what it's worth, this thread isn't primarily intended to work out whether DM-PCs, TN-PCs, G-NPCs, or any other variety of NPC or PC is a good or bad idea.

    Instead, I'd first like to sort out as best we can just what terms we should use, and then work from there.

    Aye. However, this illustrates one of the dangers of using terminology like Mary Sue (or DMPC): there's a lot of somewhat contradictory and decidedly incomplete definitions floating around, based more on rhetorical needs of the moment than on study and careful consideration. So you end up having to clarify several times over just what sort of Mary Sue you meant (Black Hole Sue? Einstein Sue? Self-insert? "Classic"? Canon Sue?), and what that entails, until eventually the discussion gets all jumbled by different people arguing for different definitions and (often rightly) criticizing aspects of one definition that don't apply to the one intended.
    So my attempt to clarify what I mean by DMPC fails due to the many meanings of Mary Su

    Also coining catchier terms than your acronyms might be a good idea ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Exediron View Post
    "In fan fiction, a Mary Sue is an idealized character representing the author." [quoted definition]

    That's not a DMPC. It's surprisingly simple what a DMPC is, and Tuggy got it right in the first post: a DMPC is a PC played by the DM. That's all. Like the banker in Monopoly, the DM of this game has the dual roles of player and DM, which reside in the same person but do not cross over.

    A DMPC is in no way a Mary Sue by definition, certainly not by the definition you linked to. I have personally never seen a DM play a self-insertion character as their PC. I suppose it probably happens, but not any more than any other PC.

    I think what a lot of the anti-DMPC sentiment comes down to is either a) lack of understanding regarding how a DM can effectively run one, or b) lack of belief that a typical DM can effectively run one. B is likely true in many cases.

    For a DM to be able to effectively run a DMPC as though they were a normal PC, that person must be capable of compartmentalizing their roles internally, so that when playing the character they do not access the knowledge that is in their brain about the dungeon, and when running the game they do not think of their character any differently than the rest. If done properly, it should be so that there is no distinguishable difference between the DM's character and that of any other player.

    Although the DM must perforce hold back their character on some tasks (puzzle solving, for example) this only punishes the DM; their character should never cause the other players to lose enjoyment by their presence. An experienced DM, I feel, is capable of playing their character in a puzzle solving (riddles, word puzzles, what have you) environment without breaking the equality of their character by coming up with either reasonable but wrong guesses or hunches or alternatively nudging the players in the correct direction but letting them make the final connection. The second technique is mostly for if they're struggling with the puzzle.

    Personal Experience: Played in games, both as DM and player, with DMPCs since AD&D v1 - and still do to this day. Most of the time it's been with a small group with an insufficient number to make a good party without the DM chipping in, but another situation where DMPCs make a great deal of sense is with a consistent world that has rotating DMs - the player who is DMing at the time keeps their PCs and plays them in their own campaign, and then when it moves on to the next player they resume their other role as someone else steps up to DM. As long as you have skilled and mature role-players and especially the DM(s), it works just fine.

    As a side note, I personally deplore the habit of DMs giving the control of an NPC over to the party or leaving them limp and unresponsive when not engaged in melee. It kills my immersion in the game on a level that an overpowered NPC never can.
    Obviously RPGs are not quite the same as fiction so the point was supposed to be an analogy. The wish fulfilment part is because the DM wants to be a player in his own game, with all that that entails.

    I don't want to re-enact the DMPC debate here, because this thread is about defining our terms first. I will say though that I disagree with most of your points.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lorsa View Post
    So basically you want to use a different definition of a Mary Sue compared to how most people define it. That's certainly okay but not very constructive to communication. My suggestion would be to come up with another definition for the concept you are describing as Mary Sue is already taken.
    What you're saying is that when most people say "Mary Sue", what they mean is "self insert". So they should just say self insert.

    Also let's face it. There is as many definitions of Mary Sue as there are people, and it essentially boils down to "This is a character I don't like".

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by TuggyNE View Post
    Emmerask has a lot of it, but the root distinction that I started with is that a DM-PC is one where the DM says something like "hey guys, I was thinking of running a PC because {I want to play too|you guys are short-handed|it's custom to run a DM-PC|whatever other reason" and then the rest of the group says "OK, whatever" or "sure, sounds great!". A TN-PC is one where the DM brings in an NPC that turns out to be, in all ways but name and person running it, a PC; generally in this case there's little or no prior approval by the group as a whole. If you talk to the DM about it, a DM-PC will be described as a DM-PC, but a TN-PC will be described as a totally legitimate NPC.

    I'll see if I can condense that down in the OP to make the point a bit clearer.
    Yeah... I don't know how to put this, but there is a level of "denial" that TNPCs exist in where you have a DM (of widely varying skill level... you can't just put this on the newbies) who just won't admit that he's inserted a mole into the team. That mole may or may not be acting in the party or campaign's best interest... hell, I know I've inserted TNPCs where a party badly needed a role (like no one wanted to play a cleric nor did they know jack about alchemy or have any henchmen, and they were going to be in a meat grinder), but the DM needs to be conscious that he is not the damn player. I'm almost more in favor of letting a player play the Wonder Twins and give them the TNPC just to keep my hands out of it.
    Last edited by GungHo; 2013-10-21 at 01:30 PM.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by tensai_oni View Post
    What you're saying is that when most people say "Mary Sue", what they mean is "self insert". So they should just say self insert.

    Also let's face it. There is as many definitions of Mary Sue as there are people, and it essentially boils down to "This is a character I don't like".
    I thought it was a character without flaws.

    I've actually had players play mary-sue characters and actually enjoyed them very much. Then again it was a mutants and masterminds game where being a character like that is almost the norm.

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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    AFAIK the definition tensai_oni gave is the original definition of Mary Sue. However since the original definition is such a horrendously destructive character, people started accusing started accusing characters they didn't like of being Mary Sues just for being self-inserts or not having noticable flaws, and now it just mean a fictional person you don't like similar to nazi basically just means someone you disagree with now (or at the very least is treated meaning that).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    I like the look of these categories, but I'm a little confused about one of the distinctions. Could you please clarify what the difference between a DM-PC and a TN-PC is?
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Quote Originally Posted by tensai_oni View Post
    What you're saying is that when most people say "Mary Sue", what they mean is "self insert". So they should just say self insert.

    Also let's face it. There is as many definitions of Mary Sue as there are people, and it essentially boils down to "This is a character I don't like".
    My post was mostly phrased the way it was because even if wikipedia isn't a great source, it is still a source and you supplied none for your definition.

    It's quite iikely that there isn't any good definition of Mary Sue but that only means we should avoid using that phrase altogether. If something creates confusion it's no use for communication purposes. Unless the point of the communication in question was to create confusion, obviously.

    Reading the first line of the wikipedia definition says "idealized character representing the author". That isn't the same thing as "self insert".
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    Well the page I quoted does give examples: J. T. Kirk and Wesley Crusher.
    I think W.C may be the most recognised example.

    Is there a good source for this sort of thing though ?
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    Default Re: DM-PC: Redefinition in the Playground

    I immediately notice you're missing "NPC of lesser mechanical ability and story involvement than the PCs, who accompanies the party for a substantial length of time at the DM's suggestion, urging, or insistence."
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