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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Leicontis's Avatar

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    Default DMPC's - Do they work?

    I've often considered inserting a DMPC into the games I run, but there are things I'm not sure about. How do I avoid giving unfair breaks to the character? How do I have this PC contribute without abusing his player's knowledge? When the party is debating what solution they should take, advocating the correct solution would be cheating, and would be robbing the players. On the other hand, having my character doing something I know is a bad idea would really grate. The best idea I can think of so far would be to make a character that's lazy, but has very high Sense Motive and Diplomacy so that he can reasonably take advantage of the knowledge I have of NPCs' personalities.

    What experiences have you had with DMPCs? How do you make them work, or can you even do so? Is it worth the effort, or is it not as satisfying as playing a regular PC?
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    When I DMPC's my Cleric, I just had him act liek normal, except just a bit more subdued, and he'd hint as to what course the party should take when they had a tough time deciding, but didn't pursue it forcefully.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    A DMPC should usually be some holy guy or an adviser. They're hard to do well though.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    Unless you have a story reason or the party is in lacking a certain role that it is important to fill I would not recommend it.

    It seems you would simply like to be a PC and that is rarely successful for the reason you yourself mention.

    It is not as satisfying either because (unless you have mental issues) what comes next is usually not that surprising.

    If you have certain things you would like to try I suggest that you use NPCs and perhaps have them follow the party for a short while.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    I find that DMPCs are best as primary melee. Spellcasters have a great deal of power, and draw attention to themselves, a big no no. Rogues and other skill-monkeys have whole sections where they're the only ones doing stuff (negotiating, bluffing, breaking into the evil castle to let people in), so that may cause resentment. Primary melee guys help, but don't overshadow unless they're built to do massive damage.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    Play a DMPC who doesn't always have very good ideas. Like, play a barbarian whose immediate thought on a mission to break an innocent victim out of prison is to storm the fortress, killing anyone who stands in his way, break the bars, and carry the victim out.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    The idea of a 'good DMPC' is a bit of an oxymoron, as 'DMPC' has the connotations of 'DM wants to play a PC but can't, so includes an NPC into the party who acts like own personal PC who then gets favourite treatment'.

    It is possible to have an NPC with the party and have it work okay, but it significantly increases the amount of work for the DM and takes time away from the PCs. It also can lead to awkward situations where the NPC is doing something with other NPCs, leading to the DM having an involved conversation with himself while the players watch either in amusement or boredom, depending on how you play it.

    I've run NPCs who hang around with the party on a few occasions, and my recommendations would be:

    • Don't do it if you don't have to. If there's a way to give the PCs what they need without having a NPC accompany the party, do that instead.


    • If you do have an NPC accompanying the party, try to have her relate only to the PCs rather than to other NPCs. This will minimise the chance of you being mistaken for a lunatic with multiple personality disorder holding an animated conversation with himself.


    • It's always better to have the NPC err on the side of too ignorant, rather than too knowledgeable. If the NPC seems to know what she's talking about, the PCs will take every word that comes out of her mouth as the truth.


    • Make sure the NPC has a fairly distinctive personality, preferably one that can be summed up with a single adjective ('angry', 'helpful', 'dedicated', etc). If the NPC has no personality, the PCs will treat her as a walking resource battery. They might still do that anyway, but at least it'll be more interesting when they do.


    • Give serious consideration to leaving the NPC out of combats. Having the DM run both sides of a combat is never good, unless you think the players will enjoy watching you play solitaire. Either come up with an explanation (NPC is nonviolent/inexperienced/disinterested) or just ignore the NPC once combat starts.


    The last NPC I used who hung around with the party was a character who, due to her race and background, was incredibly knowledgeable about certain very advanced subjects, and completely ignorant about almost everything else. Playing up her naivete made for some entertaining conversations, and stopped the PCs from treating her as a metagaming tool. She helped the PCs with her area of expertise, and followed their directions the rest of the time.

    And finally, remember the Golden Rule of adventure stories: The sidekick should never be cooler than the heroes. When you're running an NPC, the NPC is always the sidekick, no matter how powerful or important she might be. :)

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    Last edited by Saph; 2007-08-19 at 12:20 PM.
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    Halfling in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    The only reason I would recommend using a DMPC is if your party is lacking something crucial (such as a healer). And in such a case, I would craft a DMPC which is solely concerned with doing that one duty, and not encroaching onto anything else (puzzle solving, decision making, etc.).

    For instance, if you needed to make a DMPC fighter available, have him be a gruff mercenary the party can hire. If the PC's ever ask him "What do you think of this puzzle?", a typical response would be "You pay me to fight, not to think. Solve your own problem."

    Or if the party needs a healer, have a low-Int, high-Wis Cleric tag a long, capable of little more than "You have boo-boo! Me make it better!"

    Basically, fill the hole your party needs filled, and don't do anything more than that. Let the players have as much of the action as they want, and you can fill in the stuff they leave behind.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    DMPCs are tough; as people have already pointed out, they often get "favorite treatment," and if you attempt to compensate by making them a silent lockpicker/healer/whatever then you stick a flat, wooden character right into the center of your campaign. A good way to make NPCs seem important, however, is to have them occasionally directly assist the party (effectively DMPCing them for a while)- PCs will be more invested in your characters if they are, in some sense, "part of the group."

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    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    I added a Lawful Neutral Halfling Rogue into as this role with a small backstory. The PCs at some time in the past had gone to fight an old evil wizard in a tower but when they got there wizard had died of old age and the Rogue was acting as a butler with very low free will, just following the orders of the deceased wizard.

    I then had the rogue just do whatever the partymembers commanded within reason. Any treasure was given to the party first and then they could choose to pass things to the rogue.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    My main reason for never having NPCs that stick with the group, let alone DMPCs, is that it's a division of my concentration when I need it least.

    As DM, I have to come up with reasonably realistic personalities, appearances, and dialogue for a lot of different NPCs over the course of the game. They tend to break down a bit if the PCs get too in depth with them. Between that, arbitrating the game, running the monsters in combat, and describing the adventure in general, my attention is spoken for.

    DMPCing in the classic sense, that of playing a character in a group you DM, is almost always a bad idea. If there is a specific problem, that the best solution you can think of is to have an NPC with character levels along with the party, then do so to the smallest degree you can get away with.
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  12. - Top - End - #12
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Leicontis View Post
    I've often considered inserting a DMPC into the games I run, but there are things I'm not sure about. How do I avoid giving unfair breaks to the character? How do I have this PC contribute without abusing his player's knowledge?
    To be blunt, don't run a "DMPC" if the players need help let them hire an NPC whom they give orders / requests to. Even that should be avoided if possible.

    When the party is debating what solution they should take, advocating the correct solution would be cheating, and would be robbing the players. On the other hand, having my character doing something I know is a bad idea would really grate. The best idea I can think of so far would be to make a character that's lazy, but has very high Sense Motive and Diplomacy so that he can reasonably take advantage of the knowledge I have of NPCs' personalities.
    Avoid becoming personally involved with the NPC. It shouldn't be "you character" it's just another NPC hireling. If / when the PCs want to fire the character, there shouldn't be a problem with them doing so.

    What experiences have you had with DMPCs? How do you make them work, or can you even do so? Is it worth the effort, or is it not as satisfying as playing a regular PC?
    In more than 20 years of gaming, I've never seen a DMPC done well. Most DMs spend enough time on plot and background, taking time away from that to worry about playing a PC doesn't help make the plot or background better.

    What are you trying to accomplish by inserting a DMPC?
    - If you simply want to play a character, I'd suggest getting someone else to DM for a while. Or rotate DMs.
    - If you're trying to fill some holes in the group's lineup, let them look for a hireling. Your input into what the hireling does should seldom be more than vetoing outrageous orders - basically, the hireling shouldn't (usually) be suicidal.
    - If you're trying to "guide" the group with a PC leader...don't. It's almost always a bad idea.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    The times I've seen it done best were DMPC's as apprentices and hirelings. Generally lower powered than the PCs, little active input unless something is requested of them, characters that are aware that they're supposed to be following, not leading.

    It lets skills that are needed be available, and the occasional plot-hook set-up to be run through, but the DMPC should never be taking a leading role in the goings on.

    An example could be the nobles son: trained in various "soft" arts (i.e. high skills in knowledges and diplomacy) who is now being groomed as an agent. They've been taught some lockpicking and stealth, but have been sent out with the PCs to gain active experience and some combat tricks.

    The character would be ineffective in most combat situations, but able to provide information for the party and some skills they may not have. However, most of the problems that the party encounters will be far outside their experience, and they'll have little input to offer.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    After getting some experience with it, I seem to do best by just making it a regular NPC that I happen to take extra special care of leveling and sees combat alongside the party more often. Any time I include him, it's either for story purposes or to match a CR that would otherwise be outside the party's scope. I roleplay a bit of ignorance into them, "accidentally" having them use poor attacks and such to show the rest of the players weaknesses they can exploit, and only having them nab plot-central treasure that I've deemed necessary for them to have.

    Practice taking the Mary Sue out of your DMPC if you plan to play one, basically. Force mistakes and be willing to let them die in fights or even random traps. But ultimately, it's probably best if you just find a second game to play where you can be a PC instead of the DM. I'd only recommend even trying a DMPC if there just aren't any other DM's in the area.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    I've seen DMPCs work. The fundamental problem with DMPCs is the 'Mary Sue' effect, and that can be avoided by a disciplined DM.

    The second problem, of course, is that there will be a certain category of challenges which the DM sets for the party and which the DM overcomes (such as the locks picked by the NPC locksmith or the DMPC rogue). That's harder to squash, but if nobody in your group wanted to play the rogue anyway then it probably won't annoy them that the rogue-work is being done by someone else.

    As long as you remember the Viscount's words about avoiding the 'Mary Sue' effect, you should be fine. The DMPC should be no more powerful than other members of the party, should not be trying to force themselves into a leadership role, and should not get the benefit of DM-created 'luck' that the PCs wouldn't get themselves. It's OK to cheat and save the DMPC's life if and only if you are doing the same thing for the PCs. It's OK to come up with a cool build for the DMPC, if and only if the players are coming up with cool powerful builds for their own characters. And so it goes.
    Last edited by Dervag; 2007-08-19 at 01:44 PM.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Leicontis View Post
    What experiences have you had with DMPCs? How do you make them work, or can you even do so? Is it worth the effort, or is it not as satisfying as playing a regular PC?
    IMO, it is completely not worth the effort. As a DM, I will go to considerable lengths to avoid having to run an NPC party member.

    Don't get me wrong, I like playing a character--more than I like DMing, frankly. But when I am DMing, there's no satisfaction for me in playing a DMPC. In combat, I have plenty to do keeping track of the monsters. Out of combat, the DMPC can't really contribute anything without taking away from the rest of the party.

    I have played in campaigns with DMPCs. They don't go well. At best, it's a drag on the DM's time and attention and slows down combat. At worst, the DMPC outshines the PCs at everything and makes them all feel unnecessary.
    Last edited by Dausuul; 2007-08-19 at 01:46 PM.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    I've heard of very few examples of GMPCs being a positive influence. The GM shouldn't be personally invested in any NPC, that's what players do. Playing ordinary NPCs as hirelings and sidekicks, fine. Playing an NPC as their own PC even while GMing is an irresolvable conflict of interest. You shouldn't be trying to steal any of the limelight from the players when running a game.
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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    Well it looks like the OP is thinking of doing some inserting so to speak, so I will share knowledge from my own experience as a DM. This is probably not the best topic to post in for my opening post at this board, and lots of people will disagree with me but here it goes anyways;

    I run a DMPC almost every session.

    I don't see that there is any problem with it, unless you encounter some of the problems that people have outlined earlier, which I admit I have. However, my group has gotten so accustomed to having a DMPC in the group, that when we are thinking of starting a new campaign, they ask me what I am going to play. If I say something like "I'm going to sit this one out and just DM.", my players are bummed out.

    A DMPC works with our group, but your milage may vary.

    My current DMPC is a specialist wizard, a transmuter, specializing in buffing spells. She uses a shortbow, makes scrolls and potions, and gets an even share of all the loot. I know some people are probably wide-eyed and aghast by now, but like I said, it works for our group. She doesn't initiate dialogue with NPC's (avoiding the dreaded multiple personalities!), aside from a wisecrack every now and then, or to spit out a cutting remark when somebody says something stupid. When the party gets their marching order together, they tell me where I am in the order. If I run into the trap first, so be it. If the party comes up to a puzzle, I let the party solve it. If the party is planning an attack or some other action, they may ask me for advice or if I have any ideas. However, they know that any ideas I may have may not be such good ideas. Sometimes, the party takes one of those bad ideas and runs with it, spawning a bastardized plan using the bad idea as the root. Sometimes it works. Before combat, She buffs the party with her spells, and if anything is left over, might give herself some as well. Usually though, she'll hold onto those last few spells, just in case someone else in the party needs it in an emergency. She will plink a few enemies with her bow, but being a wizard, it mostly serves to keep her out of reach of the badguys while waiting to see if anybody needs assistance.

    So for us it works. The group loves going toe-to-toe with monsters who by their CR should be able to annihilate the party, but with buffs can be taken down. The look of satisfaction of my players' faces is priceless after such an encounter. She gets her fair share of the loot afterwards as a result of this, which she then uses to make scrolls and potions for the party. We even have a second wizard in the group, when a piece of good wizard gear ends up in the loot, he insists that we share evenly. It is also worth noting that we go entirely by the random treasure tables too.

    All that said, I also have a virtual "Great Elephant Burial Ground" of dead DMPC's. I may cheat a little in the favor of my players if I feel I screwed up or put them in a terrible situation (but only if it's my fault). Though I give no such benefits to my DMPCs. Still, it is gratifying to have my players insist upon paying to ressurect my DMPC after a rough battle, even when I tell them they don't have to.

    So, as I said, it works for us. As long as your players are still the star of the show, it can be fun for everybody.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    If I play a DMPC it is either a non-violent healer (because the party needs one), or a bard. I have the bard sit back and spew buffs all over the place when combat starts to make the PCs better. When I have him interact it is usually 'off camera' with other NPCs (he has a higher diplomacy or w/e and doesn't want the PCs screwing it up). Also bardic knowledge is great for throwing in subplots.

    My DM tends to like to use DMPCs and they tend to steal the spotlight. That is annoying, so I try to avoid DMPCs when possible and when not (or when I REALLY want to have a character but have to DM) I use DMPCs that function as support rather than 'heros.'

    If it isn't working, kill your DMPC or have him captured (yes, even if you spent more time on him that the entire campaign, or rather especially so). It furthers the plot and keeps the players in the action.
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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    To sum it all up- DMPC's can work, but they need to be in the background buffing, not stealing any spotlight.
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    I've had many campaigns with DMPCs, some good, some bad. As a DM, they can sometimes be a real help when you have a small group (3 players or less), but for any group with 5 or more players, I would never put in a DMPC unless I have an assistant to run her.

    Also, if your DMPC gets in a bad situation, let her die. No saving her or anything. Let her die, heroically if you must, but even better if it's fast, random and painful!

    Worst DMPC I met: Skill monkey DMPC, stealing the spotlight and doing all the technical stuff (In starwars D6, had millions of dice in technical skills). Got on our nerves so much, she got "forgotten" in an airlock. GM did get "slightly annoyed".

    One of the best DMPC I met: Paladin DMPC we had with us; Princess who ran away from the castle and wanted to help her people. Built up a backbone and a new vision of the world with the players and then returned to rule after her father was kidnapped. Not overpowering because she had to stay back to "avoid being recognised". But still had the spotlight at two appropriate moments including one scene at the end where she reveals how much she has grown with the characters, even citing what we had told her while campaigning (DM wrote down our uplifting comments and brought them out later, nice touch).
    Last edited by Ashtar; 2007-08-19 at 04:33 PM.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    The DMPC in my campaign is a special case. She actually belongs to a player who can't make it regularly anymore, and unfortunately her character was one of the two most developed in the 6-man party, RP-wise. She was a source of conflict for the rest of the players (She is a snarky, self-centered and arrogant noble brat), so I was loath to kill her character off. She made the RPing much more interesting.

    As such I kept her around and continue to RP her. She's technically the official leader of the party but due to some personality issues (low WIS) she can't really make consistently good decisions and so she's doesn't lead the other PCs by the nose. Thankfully I'm able to RP her consistently enough with the original player's style, and although she's a Swashbuckler who gets to tear some rather gaping holes into enemies, she doesn't really take others out of the limelight.
    Last edited by AslanCross; 2007-08-19 at 06:00 PM.


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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    My one real experience with a DMPC has been pretty good so far. The DMPC in question is a Drow pirate, who, despite my ingrained distaste for the Drow, I actually enjoy. The DM uses him to inform the party about the world, since only one of the PCs is native to the plane, and he comes in handy as an occasional backup, plot device, and romantic interest.
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    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    I highly recommend experienced DMs making use of NPC Adventurers who travel with the Player Characters, but then I like to use Henchmen and Hirelings as well, which not everyone likes to do.

    DMPCs, in the sense of attempting to be both a Player Character and a Dungeon Master at the same time should be avoided, and as far as I am concerned it is impossible to really implement fairly (and kind of defeats the purpose of having a division between DM and PCs at all).
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    Well, coming from a small group (there's only 3 of us that could play), we had to do 2 Players and 1 DM. In almost all situation, if we didn't do Gestalt, we were missing some roles - Commonly Rogue or Warrior, but ALWAYS divine healing. So, when it was my turn to DM, I helped the players out by throwing in a DMPC.

    A Halfling Healer. Literally, the Healer class in Minatures handbook. It worked wonders. It got the benefits of a walking toolbox, but didn't seem fake because he could not even cast other kinds of spells. He was kinda a coward, not being able to wear much armor, and not being all that strong (6 Str, 14 Dex, 12 Con, don't remember the mentals, but good Wis/Cha). So, he did his best to stay out of combat, and behind the PCs, so didn't get hit by many traps (a few, though). He spent most of the time subserviant to the players, and ran from combats that scared him, if he could. Didn't take the spotlight at all. If he did something away from the PCs, I did it in my head, and decided what happened. Never took away from them, but gave them all the healing he could (which, in a dungeon campaign, is usefull, since they couldn't buy potions to help).

    After a level of the dungeon, though, I thought he was providing a bit too much help for them (not in combat, but going into any other fight at full HP was taking away alot of the challenge). So, I had them leave him with a number of injured Kobolds (I made the players feel bad for attacking Kobolds ealier in the dungeon, especially when they charged into the Women/Children/Elderly/Injured room.) He gave them a number of potions he made, and a few Belts of Healing (Magic Item Comp.), as well as two weak fast healing amulets (Fast Healing 1, but only up to half HP), and offered himself if they needed potions.

    Overall, I think it was useful, and not so much abused, but I didn't really like the work of planning out what another PC does while doing other things. If you can handle the extra paperwork, though, subpar classes make great DMPCs. Marshals, Bards, Healer, Warmages, great choices, as they support and fill roles, but not as nicely as an all out PC.
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    my DM has alot of NPC's that go with us lets see, human barbarian, elf ranger/sorcerer, and a halfing whisperknife, tey work fine for him

    and theyask the party leader what to do, unless very stupid thing to do
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by AslanCross View Post
    The DMPC in my campaign is a special case. She actually belongs to a player who can't make it regularly anymore, and unfortunately her character was one of the two most developed in the 6-man party, RP-wise. She was a source of conflict for the rest of the players (She is a snarky, self-centered and arrogant noble brat), so I was loath to kill her character off. She made the RPing much more interesting.
    Killing characters off isn't the only option when their player disappears. They can leave the party without having to die.

    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew View Post
    I highly recommend experienced DMs making use of NPC Adventurers who travel with the Player Characters, but then I like to use Henchmen and Hirelings as well, which not everyone likes to do.

    DMPCs, in the sense of attempting to be both a Player Character and a Dungeon Master at the same time should be avoided, and as far as I am concerned it is impossible to really implement fairly (and kind of defeats the purpose of having a division between DM and PCs at all).
    Exactly.

    Quote Originally Posted by de-trick View Post
    my DM has alot of NPC's that go with us lets see, human barbarian, elf ranger/sorcerer, and a halfing whisperknife, tey work fine for him

    and theyask the party leader what to do, unless very stupid thing to do
    NPCs and GMPCs aren't the same thing. Just because an NPC is a regular in the party, doesn't automatically mean they're a GMPC. What distinguishes them is where the GM is clearly playing them as "their" character as though they were also a PC.
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    DMPCs can work, but they are more trouble than they are worth really. Here is a list of pointers however.

    1. Beware that an experianced player is likely to shout "run for the hills he's got a loaded DMPC!" or similar. DMPCs are often used by poor or inexpericnaed DMs as Deux Ex Mechanica or Railroad devices.
    2. Be either a melee meatshield or a Healbot. Fighter, Barbarian or Cleric only (from core, Marshal or Healer are also good choices for example).
    3. Only fill another role if it is 100% vital. Be a ranger if the party is expected to be tracking and hasn't bothered to include a tracker for example.
    4. NEVER if there are allready 5 or more PCs.
    5. NEVER EVER play a paladin. If the party doesn't include one they probably don't want one. If they have one then you are not needed.
    6. The plot shall never revolve around your PC.
    7. If at all possible do your role and your role alone. Samurai is quite a good DMPC class as it is rubbish whilst still just about filling it's role.
    8. Generate the DMPC last, you fit in with them, not the otehr way around.
    9. The day the DMPC has to save the day, is the day you have failed as a DM.
    10. Regardless of what you do for the PCs, never fudge a roll for a DMPC.

    Idealy however it is better for the PCs to hire an NPC than to have a DMPC. That may seem like a name change only but is is important. Your character, if any, should be set dressing, not the protagonist.

    So short answer, No with a but, long answer Yes with an if.
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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    I seen 1 DMPC work. An stealth archer. Did nothing in battle but shoot arrows. No convo skills to make talking to self issues. Gave the rogue a scout buddy. Lower the amount of ambushed with perception. And most importantly, had the race and gender combo our stupid party leader forced us to keep in the group.

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    Default Re: DMPC's - Do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Orzel View Post
    And most importantly, had the race and gender combo our stupid party leader forced us to keep in the group.
    Huh? Every member of the party was a male elf?
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