I'm a player in a one-on-one game with a friend, who is the GM. Both of us control several characters each, which should in theory be getting equal use. (Our game uses FATE mechanics, however, the issue is not one specific to the system).

Most questions I see about GMPCs are from GMs themselves, on how to avoid common pitfalls of the GMPC. Common advice is to build a character that 'supports' player characters - such as answers here: (1) and (2). Players and GMs alike seem to agree that GMPCs tend to be too powerful. This is not the case here.


The problem: Most of the (several) GMPCs are perfectly fine, and in fact, even the "problem" GMPC follows the suggested guidelines - she is not overpowered.

The "problem" GMPC has almost an inverted issue - she is martyred. Despite so many other characters, she must always, somehow, end up involved. She's often thrust into combat, and then the GM focuses on her. She takes the brunt of attacks (despite being, relative to most characters, weaker) and suffers massive damage.

It's not uncommon for my own characters to take zero hits (or only very light ones), even when one of mine would be the most reasonable target of an enemy.

Non-combat encounters have similar outcomes - the problem GMPC ends up a damsel-in-distress, often to an absurd degree.

  • It's frustrating to have encounters where enemy NPCs behave as though my characters don't exist. Even when my characters are targeted, there is an obvious difference in the amount of effort put into it. (Example: We are using the FATE system - NPCs will tag aspects when attacking the problem GMPC, but almost always fail to do so for my characters.)
  • Inserting the problem GMPC into every situation means many characters - my own, and other GMPCs - are left out, when it would make more sense for them to participate. Characters who were intended to be in the main party are not able to gain skills, because they are edged out by the problem GMPC (and then because they have low skills from not participating, they are further glossed over later...)
  • The problem GMPC is always the victim, and never the victor - and vice versa for the other characters. My characters feel stagnant, and now the other GMPCs do also.

I do really like this character, and do not want to see her removed from the game - I just want her treatment to be changed. I do want my own characters to be able to experience failures/losses, but I don't want to simply turn the table and nominate a single character of my own to be the martyr - it makes for a bad story and will only create these same problems again.

I know the only solution is to have a candid talk with my GM. What feedback or suggestions can I give my GM, without sounding entitled (because this is a one-on-one)?


Update: 11/20 : We ran into yet another situation where a villain NPC was placing unwarranted pressure/attention on the problem GMPC. We ended up stopping the game and I did talk to the GM about why I felt this didn't make sense with the storyline, and that I was noticing a trend of villains/circumstances being very focused and hard on the particular GMPC.

My GM did not seem to respond well to this, and got rather passive aggressive, deciding finally that we could "do things [my] way" before ending the conversation. Later he says that he does not see any of this martyring behaviour with regards to his treatment of the GMPC.

I definitely feel like I've crossed a line, and possibly hurt our relationship in the process.

  • 2
    You are playing FATE not Fate, yeah? I think the system is relevant to a certain degree here, because FATE's character-driven fiction could be excarbating the problem, while I'd expect Fate's plot-driven fiction to mitigate it. Also, if you are using FATE 2.0, would a system-specific fix be a problem? If I understand the situation right, you can bring in mechanics to solve this problem. – the dark wanderer Nov 10 '17 at 2:06
  • @thedarkwanderer - yes, we are using FATE, not Fate. As a player I am not entirely sure of the exact version - I know the GM has tweaked a few things for our one-on-one purposes, which is why I opted to request an answer that could be generally applied to other systems (so other people can make use of this question and its responses). However, I am open to suggestions that take FATE into account for my specific situation. – aa-ko Nov 10 '17 at 3:01

From my experience, playing the "martyr" GMPC isn't such a bad idea, if only it's used to drive the plot forward. For example, I had a similar game, where I had to use the martyr trope, since the other player was far more hooked up on character development, while I wanted the story to develop. In the end, we got a compromise - the story developed and the martyr angle allowed the other player to show what they wanted - they needed to save the GMPC because of the relationship between the two characters.

In your experience however, this is obviously not what you want. Constantly having to save the damsel in distress doesn't feel like much more than a rinse-and-repeat cycle. Obviously, you want something different.

Basically, the primary advice is to speak with the GM.

Talk to them about what you both want from the game, so that you can find a compromise. Do you want dungeon adventures? Or a quest to defeat the Ultimate Evil that lurks on the edge of the land, seeking to destroy all that is good and right? Talk about bringing the focus away from "saving your teammate", and onto something else.

Additionally, talk to him about the GMPC - how you feel about their ability to contribute (or lack thereof). Discussing the reason for this behaviour is also a big part of it. Depending on the reason for this behaviour, you can decide to change the behaviour, and therefore the GMPC's involvement in the story, or scrap them entirely. In the latter situation, perhaps you can come up with some kind of "Hamlet-style" death scene. Could definitely be a bit of fun, to be over-dramatic about an overly dramatic character.

But all in all, the GM knows what's happening in the story. They know all the numbers, and all the upcoming plot developments and twists, but if they run the story, there's little to no adventure in it for you, hence taking the back seat in things.

  • What we want from the setting overall is not at odds - this is why we moved to one-on-one. The only issue here is the specific treatment of this one character. As I stated in my question, I don't want to scrap this GMPC. I like her a lot, and when we are not rescuing her, she's quite pleasant - killing her off is unnecessary and as far as plot is concerned, creates more problems than it solves. Rescuing her repeatedly is also not driving the plot - it's holding the plot back, because characters aren't getting development time. – aa-ko Nov 10 '17 at 3:16
  • But I think you are right, I need to find something specific to suggest as a fix or a shift in focus, if I am to approach the GM about this with any success. As a player though, how do I suggest redirecting trouble/conflict/attacks toward my own characters, without sounding like I expect the game world to revolve entire around me - as the GM is 50% of our player base? – aa-ko Nov 10 '17 at 3:23
  • @aa-ko Rather than appointing your character as the centre of the plot, instead suggest a third party. An evil doom-seeker that is affecting the land with his chaos and minions (as an example) – Ben Nov 10 '17 at 3:42
  • We have far too many characters with different motivations for one overarching thread, which is one of the reasons why the martyr character is so problematic - she's standing in the way of the threads intended for other characters. So these characters are not being developed. You suggest introducing a third party - we have plenty of 3rd parties - but the 3rd parties focus on the GMPC. – aa-ko Nov 10 '17 at 4:07
  • Well, that's what I mean. An over-arching bad guy that shadows the rest. Once he's revealed, everything else becomes insignificant. He is the puppet master and the rest just do his bidding – Ben Nov 10 '17 at 4:08

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.