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I'm currently playing a IRL game with two of my friends. As you might imagine I was worried that they weren't powerful enough to take on the higher level encounters so I made a character to help them out. They were both new to D&D so I didn't want to over load them with a gestalt character. How ever now I'm worried that I might use my DM powers to make my character more powerful then the other two.

I just want to know something to help prevent myself from using my magic DM powers for evil.

right now we have a sorcerer and monk so I was considering making a tank-ish cleric.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

To Join the Chorus of Don't Do DMPCS

So, let me start by joining the others and saying that generally DMPCS are not a good idea. I have seen it work (and will get to how shortly), but generally I recommend avoiding them. As others have said, it is far too easy for the PCs to rely on the DMPC even if you have successfully bordered yourself. It is also hard to resist the temptation to let the DMPC shine, or have him figure things out for the other players.

If the problem is that the group is underpowered, there are better options including lowering the power of the opposition, tailoring the the quests to their strengths, showering them with magic items to make them more powerful than their level would suggest, etc. You could also consider letting them play more than one character each at the same time (though their inexperience might be an issue).

But you asked how to do it

But you didn't ask us if you should, you asked how. And I have seen it done in ways I would consider successful. The key thing is to make sure the real PCs are firmly in charge and that the DMPC rarely if ever outshines them.

To do this, consider the following options. You don't need to use all of them.

  • Make the DMPC considerably weaker, and make sure they fulfill a role the PCs can't. If the PCs are above level one, make the DMPCs a level lower mechanically and story wise make them inexperienced. This means that PCs truly are more powerful and will shine more often without you working so hard to ensure it and gives an in story reason that the DMPC would be following the PCs lead.
  • Make the DMPC a strictly supporting role. In one ADND game, no one wanted to be a healer. So the GM provided an NPC healer, but he hated direct combat and was cursed to only be able to cast spells on the willing. In short, he would fight to defend himself or if someone was in dire straights, but he mostly tossed out healing and buffing. He could be great support, but couldn't really shine in combat and only rarely did so out of combat by being the GM's information font. That one worked really well.
  • Make the DMPC explicitly expendable This way the party won't rely on them too much, or see them as an anchor. One way to do this is to make them mercenaries. As mercenaries they will follow orders more often than take the initiative and they are less likely to be mourned if they die. If they lose them, they go get more mercenaries later.
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2  
+1 for mercenaries. This makes them more NPCs and less GMPCs, and has some excellent potential for future plot points. –  Wesley Obenshain Jul 21 at 19:49

I would be very careful with the introduction of a DMPC.

If you do decide to do so, make a character in a supporting role. If you have a pair of fighter PCs, roll up, say, a persist buff cleric or a bard to heal and support them—but don't kill things for them. Don't build a character to beat the monsters for them, build a character that makes the players stronger.

Alternatively, consider one of the following options:

Buff the Players: If your encounters tend to heavily outnumber the PCs, I would actually consider giving the PCs extra actions. This gives them more agency and damage without requiring them to learn more mechanics. If they would tend to get taken out quickly through HP damage, give them more HP or reduce enemy attack rolls. You might accomplish these through magic items, or you might just implement them as purely mechanical changes.

Leadership: While this can be hard to deal with for some, it's good for upping PC power. I recommend not statting the followers up as PCs, but instead as Warriors, Adepts and Experts to simplify building them. These might be redshirts, or they might be a loyal, competent band of followers that aid your PCs.

Tone Down the Encounters: If you don't want to increase their power, make your encounters less challenging. If they want to fight the high level monsters, you might try toning them down mechanically while still calling them the same thing. If your players are as inexperienced as they seem, they won't notice the difference.

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Don't add an NPC in, especially one with higher capabilities than the players.

Instead of providing higher level encounters, lower the encounter difficulty and the scope of the game and let their capability and system mastery grow naturally.

At best, you'll have him treated like a bazooka:

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And at worst, it's "let's tag along and watch the wizard do everything."

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It's perfectly fine to DM and play, just make them a support character and don't min max.

Human, full cleric levels, no divine meta magic, tithe 30% of your money to the church, and spend the rest on metamagic rods to help you heal or just protective items.

Skills should be knowledge that the party lacks.

Do not take diplomacy, sense motive etc, and do not have high charisma. Without using DMM, a cleric doesn't want charisma anyway. The last thing players want to see is the DM talking to themselves.

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There will be a lot of suggestions on 'the role the DMPC should play' and how to keep him from overwhelming the players.

Game agnostic, here's the answer for my part:

First: Make sure the focus for you AND for the players is on creating a story together. If the players view it as 'overcoming a challenge' on their own, then your GMPC will always and forever be a game-breaker, no matter what you do.

For instance, I once had a bard that followed the party around. "Inspire Courage", cure spells, and the occasional bardic knowledge exposition. Wasn't even a DMPC, per se - it was supposed to be a holding place for a fourth player that was constantly unable to show up. The players HATED her, because they felt like it meant they couldn't do it themselves.

Which leads to the second: Talk to your players about it.

Don't do it yourself. First three rules about 'doing it right' if there's any question is 1) Talk to the players, 2) Talk to the players, and 3) TALK TO THE PLAYERS. If you've got a PC that could take some spotlight, then get them to approve the player, just like you're there to approve their players! Let them know that you WANT them to tell you if you're going overboard or abusing knowledge in some way.

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