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I am relatively new to D&D, and am trying to DM for the first time. My problem is that I only have two players, and the first two sessions we have run have been very difficult because both players want to run the same race and class. They both have nearly the exact same abilities, and neither of them want to change their character. So far, the game has been very boring and slow, and I want to add more characters to mix it up a little.

So my question is this: should I create some NPCs and give control of them to the players for some (but not all) of the time, or should I let the players each create another character to control the entire time?

Also, what are the differences between a player-controlled NPC and a PC?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi OLV, and welcome to the site. I see from your Informed badge you've already taken the tour; thanks for doing that. I'm voting to close this as the "what should I do?" is primarily a matter of opinion. You can discuss that on a forum rather than here. Meanwhile your "player-controlled NPC vs PC" is a separate and (functionally) unrelated question we'd prefer was asked separately in its own question. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 19 '17 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is almost a duplicate of a recently asked question. Please review and then consider revising your question as @doppelgreener has recommended. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 19 '17 at 15:22
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Possible Solutions:

1: As a DM play an NPC: Instead of giving your players an NPC to control you as the DM play an NPC and allow your players to interact with it like they would any other group member. This can help round out the group by filling in some missing roles, and also stops players from using the NPC as a trap tester.

2: Let the players each play 2 characters (letting your players fully create a 2nd player character): This can be tough to do for new players and new DM's. It's easy to get confused which character is doing what since one player is speaking for 2 people. However this stops the problem of players using NPC's as trap testers, since the players will be invested in keeping their characters alive.

3: Allow the players to control one or a few lower powered NPC's: Give your players a small group of slightly lower powered NPC's. Treat your player characters as commanders and have them give commands to their NPC squad (in the case of combat allow your players to roll for the NPC's). In this case players may still use NPC's as trap testers or decoys, but it can still help to pad out the party.

4: Find more players: Honestly it's hard to run a game with only 2 players, if at all possible try to find at-least 1 more person to join your game.

As for the difference between player controlled NPC's and PC's... It really depends on the character. A player character (PC), is typically a character the player has had a hand in creating and is personally invested in playing that character and seeing them grow over time. A typical Non player character (NPC) is a character that the players have had little to no input in creating and typically have little personal investment in seeing them grow (Unless the player takes a liking to a specific NPC). Allowing players to control an NPC usually ends up with the players using the NPC as a trap tester or as a decoy, allowing their characters to stay out of danger while the dumb NPC gets to go attract or set off all the dangers in the area.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Item 4 is not actually correct (in my experience) in terms of difficulty; but what is lost is the interaction of more Points of view than two: less synergy, less variation in ideas for problems solving/tactics/strategy/ideas/jokes. Suggest you amplify that point since, quite frankly, running for two is actually easier than running for 4 or 5. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 19 '17 at 15:23
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The difference is twofold: narrative and mechanical

In the narrative sense, the PCs are the protagonists of the story. They make the decisions and drive the action. A player-controller NPC, in contrast, is usually a secondary character, an extra, who tends to mainly follow the PCs into action than spark action themselves. A typical example is an animal companion of a ranger or a familiar of a spellcaster - they are clearly separate characters from their master, but still subservient to the main PC. They're there to help more than act on their own.

Mechanically, the NPCs can be built much lighter than the PCs, depending on their intended use. For example, if you want to give your players some combat support, you can essentially just pick an appropriate stat block from the Monster Manual and use it as the NPC - this is how I have done it. The resulting character has all the stats it needs for a single combat, but no personality (bonds, flaws and the like), background or hit dice.

However, you can also make a mechanically complete NPC with the normal character generation rules. This is often a good idea if the NPC will remain with the party for a while, as PCs are balanced for extended adventuring days while monster statblocks are balanced for single encounters.

Which do you want?

There are many issues to consider, but I think the most critical one is complexity. If your players can manage and remember the features of two different characters in two different classes, including both the mechanical and narrative aspects, then creating two new full-blown PCs is a valid option. If possible, I recommend it, because having two characters of hopefully different classes is sure to enrich the ways your players approach their problems with.

If you feel it would be too much for your players, make them NPCs: either build new PCs using the normal rules but simplify their characters, or go the full way and make them minimalist monster stat blocks. This is a good option particularly if you find your party needs "fire support", but as your issue seems to be more with the lack of variety than power, I recommend full PCs more.

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