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Most of the references to DMPCs I see in fora and stuff seem to be describing characters played by DMs who want to have their cake and eat it too—both to DM and to play. In these references it’s often frowned upon as bad DMing.

In other places, though, it seems to be used as a more value-neutral term, and the above definition feels wrong.

So: what makes a DMPC a DMPC rather than an NPC?

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In a traditional TTRPG table dynamic the Player Characters have the role of the protagonists in the story.

The Game Master/DM has the role of a narrator and facilitator who guides the players and PCs through the game. In order to do that they embody various Non Player Characters (NPCs).

A DMPC is a character that is controlled by the DM but instead of being supporting cast character to the protagonists (PCs) the DM positions them as a protagonist, the focus of the story.

A DMPC does not necessarily have to be a sign of bad DM practices, but it often is. Campaigns with DMPCs run into various issues:

  • DMs have much greater focus over the game than other players, which can lead to them favoring their "pet character" over others
  • A DMPC can be a sign of a DM who became a DM "against their will" (for example nobody was willing to do it and the game would not happen without it). However, they really don't have any interest in DMing and just want to experience the game as a player.
  • A DMPC means that the DM has a player agency in the game they are running which can easily lead to them railroading the rest of the group to what their DMPC "want's to do"
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much for such a clear answer! I'm curious—it's difficult for me to imagine a situation in which a DMPC wouldn't make the game worse. Any chance you can give example? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 1 '21 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ The main issue I see with DMPCs is a "conflict of interest" where the DM has disproportionate control over the story compared to other players. When you remove that part you level the playing field. For example, a game with a rotating GM structure, when each short adventure is DMed by one person and then the role rotates, and they become a player until it is their turn again. \$\endgroup\$
    – Deeps
    Dec 1 '21 at 23:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Got it! That's really helpful. I appreciate it. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 1 '21 at 23:27

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