21
\$\begingroup\$

Everyone is our party is new to tabletop games, and it's our DM's first time DMing.

Our story is we are being led across a country to a city, and being led by out DM's PC. (The PC has travelled the path we are on, and is returning to his home city. He isn't using his DM knowledge to give his character an unfair advantage.)

He often gives us puzzles or things that we are supposed to be figuring out on our own. Unfortunately the group has gotten into the habit of just asking "Hey (DM's PC), what should we do? where do we go?"

Last session our DM came up with "I didn't come this way" so even though he is 'leading' us he wasn't obligated to walk us through everything.

Any advice for us as a group? or our DM?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ Is it worth pointing out that the problem here seems to have a lot more to do with a friendly NPC who knows everything than a DM PC specifically? \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Sep 18 '14 at 5:58
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tain: It is worth clarifying whether the DM does consider this their PC, or considers the character an NPC. Sometimes the lines are blurred, and DnD 3.5E uses the same stats/rules for all characters, so the stat block will look like a PC regardless. The (downvoted) answers suggesting this is a problematic GMPC are probably off-target, but the question is attracting those answers because it has "our DM [is] also has a PC" . . . a red flag to people who have experienced bad variants of GMPCs \$\endgroup\$ – Neil Slater Sep 18 '14 at 9:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Neil Slater I don't know enough about GMPCs NPCs and PCs to answer that. His character's job is to lead us to a city. He used the term NPC, but he is a constant member of the party and has as much interaction as a regular PC. \$\endgroup\$ – Tain Sep 18 '14 at 9:36
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tain: OK, in that case I would not worry about mentions of GMPCs and problems with them. A typical problem with a GMPC is that the DM wants to play, and can abuse their position as DM in order to favour the character. There is no evidence from your question that this is the case. I think it is a good question, and maybe later we can work on fixing the title, to avoid "noise" about GMPCs. \$\endgroup\$ – Neil Slater Sep 18 '14 at 9:54

13 Answers 13

7
\$\begingroup\$

There is a simple answer to this: mix things up.

The character only knows how things were last time he came this way, so have things change. There are lots of potential ways to do this but for a simple example:

As you turn the corner you see a scene of devastation. A massive landslide has come down the mountain and taken out the road. The resulting scree slope looks very unstable.

Your guide looks stunned for a moment and then turns to you and says "This must have happened in that heavy rain last week, this is bad as it was the only safe route. I have heard tales of another pass through the mountains east of here but I've no idea what dangers lie that way".

Now it's clear - he doesn't know much more than the other players. He can give suggestions on directions and may be able to remember stories and legends (some of them more accurate than other) but he's no longer the expert...He can still act as a guide by keeping the players heading in the right direction, but he can and should push other characters to the front for their own areas of knowledge.

For example knowledge specialists might do some rolls on the legends, trackers might try and track, hunters can supply the party and scout, etc.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
30
\$\begingroup\$

I got a lot of experience doing this in troupe-style roleplaying in Ars Magica. My policy as a gamemaster is that if someone approached my player character running in NPC mode, they would get advice that was in character and almost certainly the wrong thing to do. I considered my knowledge of the scenario that I had concocted and then asked myself, “How could my character plausibly misconstrue this, preferably in a way that will be obvious to the players?” It was quite effective as a way of spurring the players to come up with a better suggestion than the one that my PC-turned-NPC was making. It helped that the PC-turned-NPC was an elementalist wizard who almost always advised frontal attack, which was entirely in character, and only developed more strategic sense when someone else had the GM hat...

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Why does your (N)PC usually dispense bad advice? Instead of always dispensing bad advice, why not have the (N)PC act more like the other characters in the party? Some things he knows, some things he thinks he knows (this fits your solution), and other things he has no clue. This is more believable because that's how a normal character would behave, and doesn't create the impression that the advice the (N)PC dispenses is usually terrible. \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Sep 18 '14 at 15:44
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @Ellesedil Often it's more important to stop breaking the game than it is to worry about believable. If the game stops because it's not working, it's small consolation that the deceased game was an ounce more believable. This is the same problem with "my guy syndrome." \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 18 '14 at 21:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Asking any PC or NPC for their opinion isn't bad when discussing a course of action. But if they're looking for this NPCish PC to guide every decision, then there's going to be plenty of cases where the (N)PC won't know the answer. A question like, "What's the best way to attack that fort?" could result in, "Well, we could just hit the front gates. But, that might not end well, so we probably need more information to find an alternative." Hopefully, that should trigger a player to make the correct suggestion: "Hey, let's scout the perimeter." And now you're on your way. \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Sep 18 '14 at 22:00
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Ellesedil The reason for the bad advice is to foster player creativity. When the players think of something better, then they have the pleasure of having come up with the solution themselves. Thinking “I can do better than that!” and proceeding to do so creates a feeling of satisfaction. This works in the real world as well; if people are having trouble deciding where to go, nominate a cheap fast food joint and ask if someone has a better suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ – Slothman Sep 19 '14 at 4:44
10
\$\begingroup\$

Advice For Dungeon Master: Flip The Question Back To The Player Characters


I have had a DM PC/NPC as a Neutral Good Cleric of Pelor / Along with a group of Paladins of Heironeous.

As soon as they got into the habit of "Hey Samael, what would you do?"

My response was, "My orders are to keep you alive to the best of my ability, not guide your quest."

When they pressed again, "I am merely here as your medic, not your sage."


Out of game I would remind everyone that I had Knowledge (Religion) and Knowledge (The Planes) and if they wanted that sort of advice, then ok, but combat advice, hints, clues, and guidance (outside the realm of their own personal attainment) would not be granted by the healer that you all decided you didn't want to roleplay as.
Whenever they all would still find the inclination to ask me to do their jobs, I simply said, "You tell me what you would do and I will say if that is a good idea or not." And if it turned out to be a bad idea, I would reply with, "What do you expect? I am not a Paladin like you are."

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 10
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Dammit Jim, I'm a Doctor not a tour guide! \$\endgroup\$ – BrianH Sep 19 '14 at 14:25
4
\$\begingroup\$

I think the problem here is considering the character being controlled by the DM as a PC at all. Once you (and the DM) get into accepting that character as an NPC you should be on your way to getting over the perceived problem here.

As long as the DM plays the NPC in-character and limits their knowledge and role to what the character would know and do based on their background, personality, orders, etc., then you're all set.

As a new group, this kind of thing is pretty commmon. It sometimes takes someone asking a question like yours to get everyone to understand the divide between character-knowledge and player- or DM-knowledge.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ The character is our guide, so their knowledge is far beyond anyone else's, but isn't psychic. The problem lies with the party asking "what should we do". The characters judgement should be trusted due to experience, but it seems very close to the DM feeding us answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Tain Sep 18 '14 at 9:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also think the problem is not only knowledge, but solution-finding. It is the same as if I tell you "You enter a room with a trap, which can be circumvented by crawling, but your character doesn't know this. Try and solve this riddle natural" - It is almost impossible to solve this riddle as if you wouldn't know the solution! \$\endgroup\$ – Falco Sep 18 '14 at 9:58
4
\$\begingroup\$

I found those situations to be self-correcting. The mechanism is XP. Let's assume you have an all-knowing, all-mighty NPC. It does not matter why he is all-knowing or all-mighty. The characters can ask him questions and can have him solve problems. But that will net them zero XP. That's not a punishment, that's simple reality. You don't learn if you let other people solve your problems.

After a few instances of all-mighty, all-knowing NPC solving problems, the players will become aware of the fact that although this works in a way, they do not advance. And players like to advance :)

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
4
\$\begingroup\$

GMPC can lead to a lot of potential problems. Most times I have seen this idea in action, it has been done wrong.

So, I generally speak against using them. In this case, with players, but specially the GM, being novice, my position is more categoric. It takes a lot of experience to play a GMPC well, so I would wait before doing it. There are other satisfactions in being a GM, playing a characters is not the only way to get fun.

If you insist on having a GMPC, two advices for this specific problem (which is one amongst many):

  • Separate radically character and player knowledge. Keep in mind what your character knows, and never use information only available to the player. This is true for everyone's character, but specially for the GMPC.
  • Make the GMPC passive, with low initiative. Make him have a weak personality, shy, or silent anyway. Give him a reason to do whatever the rest do. This way, the players can retain the control of the game.

e.g.:

PC: "Hey (DM's PC), what should we do?".
GMPC: "I don't know, do you have any idea?"
PC: "Where do we go?"
GMPC: "Mmmm... No idea. Where do we go?"
PC: "But which is the best...?"
GMPC: "Hey, I know the same as everyone else! Why do everyone keep asking me?"

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Usually good advice - but if the NPC is a guide with superior knowledge of the terrain, way and enemies? \$\endgroup\$ – Falco Sep 18 '14 at 10:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Falco Don't make the GMPC this way. \$\endgroup\$ – Flamma Sep 18 '14 at 10:16
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Falco I agree with Flamma, but even if he is a guide that knows the terrain, way, and enemies does not mean he knows strategy or tactics. It is possible to have someone know all of those things but only really be able to give the PCs information (which may not always be right) and not able to give them good advice. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Sep 18 '14 at 16:01
3
\$\begingroup\$

In a game our DM leads, his character is simply mute. Although he does use gestures, he never talks, thus making it virtually impossible to get any particulary useful information or advice from him. He is still capable of stopping the group from doing a dumb mistake, and also a nice source of black-humoured jokes when somebody is trying to ask him. I know this is not a solution for every case, but still a nice idea to consider.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
3
\$\begingroup\$

Some of the answers others have given are good, and cover what to do as a player, but I feel the major issue here is with the way the GM has designed the NPC and why they have put the NPC with the group.

It feels almost like they do not trust the way they have designed the adventure, and are worried that your group might not be able to find their way through its twists and turns. As a result they have given you an NPC who kind of knows everything important and is on hand to give you information if/when you get stuck or go off track.

From a GM point of view my advice would be to take a step back, significantly reduce the amount of knowledge the NPC has, and allow the players the room to get stuck and be creative in finding the information they need. Rather than having an NPC on tap, the challenge then becomes thinking of where they might be able to get the required information, and what they might need to give in payment/return.

The GM needs to ask themselves why it matters so much if the group gets lost or waylaid? Having something like that happen is likely to enrich the adventure. As things currently stand, if the NPC is going to continually point the way so the group avoids trouble or gets the easy way out of situations, then you may as well just fast forward the journey to the city.

The GM is likely to be surprised with the creativity the group displays when faced with an problem such as this and no easy way to get the information they require. Resist the urge to give answers on a plate - make the group work for information!!

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
3
\$\begingroup\$

I'm going to take a different route than the other answers, all of which (to me) appear to be encouraging the GM to use his 'guide' to actively screw with the players. I'm going to suggest right out of the gate that this is bad, primarily because the GM gave you a guide in the first place, so making the guide actively hinder the players is just underhanded, especially after he encouraged the group to make use of said guide. It's not the players' fault that they're making use of a resource he's provided.

Following that train of thought, I think the problem here is minimal, if non-existent. Observe; the NPC knows the region better than you do, and yet you think it's a problem that you're asking him about the best ways to travel through the region. This is precisely the function of a guide!

Now, the problem may very well be that the players are expecting the guide to do all of their thinking for them, and this is where the limits of the guide's knowledge should come into play. For example, if the guide is not a tactician, then asking him how to fight all the battles that may crop up during the journey is going to be unreasonable. Also, since no one person knows everything, having the guide simply not know the answer is also a valid thing.

However, these are all things the Gamemaster must do, and it doesn't seem clear that the GM is the one asking for advice. Rather, it looks like you as a player think that the group has dug themselves into a hole and may be blaming the GM for handing them the shovel. To that, I kinda have to say - nobody forced you to start digging. If you don't want to rely on the NPC for help... don't ask the NPC for help. Simple as that.

It may be a good idea, though, in the future for the GM to not provide an NPC that fulfills this role now that he's noticed this tendency among the group, but again, that's for him to decide and not you.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ I entirely agree. The potential issue I see (apart from everyone's inexperience with RPG's, which could generate some odd things), is that is the "GM PC" is being related to as a (not very expertly roleplayed) PC, so for instance they might have an artificial level of trust in the GM PC as opposed to an NPC guide. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Sep 19 '14 at 19:53
2
\$\begingroup\$

There's multiple ways to handle this. These might not be easily repeated, but this is considering a guiding NPC is probably not very common - they won't encounter many of them.

  1. Mute your NPC! You don't have to mute him physically - he can also be a loner who doesn't like to talk, or is just grumpy, secretive, paranoid, whatever keeps him from sharing vital information. Or you could have his tounge cut out, or give him an oath of silence, so it becomes very hard and cumbersome to ask him.

  2. Make his advice unreliable. Maybe his memory is false sometimes? Maybe it has been tampered with, or maybe the way things are has just changed? If he is sometimes wrong in his predictions (I knew this way was safe when I passed through here, where do all these giant spiders come from?) the players will not rely on them. And maybe there is even an enemy who was watching him, when he went the way last time and has layed out traps, tailored to his way of problem solving... So the group has to do things different this time, or will get killed...

  3. Why should the players do everything his way? Maybe the NPC did solve problems in a way which only work if you are alone/can use magic/are good at sneaking/immune to poison... So that most ways he can overcome problems just won't work for the group. Maybe he didn't care about high-risk solutions and just went through the fire, while the group isn't as brave/suicidal? Maybe he is a thief and was using unmoral ways, which are not ok for heroes. If there is a pit of monsters in the way, maybe he sent someone else in as a decoy to sneak by?

  4. Make him a guiding mentor. If he is a lot wiser than the characters, he could always tell them they have to beat these obstacles alone, to get stronger and learn, so they can go on if something should happen to him, or when they reach the end of the way and have to face greater evil! Like a guiding Jedi Master ;-) He doesn't have to be superior in many ways - if he just tells them "We could do it my way, but we should learn to work together as a group, for future dangers..."

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
1
\$\begingroup\$

The solution seems pretty simple - give the PCs something that the DM's PC can't solve.

An easy way to do this is to construct an obstacle that 'wasn't there before' when the DM's PC travelled this path. An avalance, a Goblin/Kobold/Gnollish trap that he didn't know about, or even just happening upon a roaming nest of bandits that have made camp right on top of the passage.

Then it is the DM's PC's job to admit that he hasn't got an answer. And to ask the other characters if they have any ideas.

This is pretty much the case with any party - there will be times when a single PC seems to have all the answers to a senario, simply because they're in a situation that's well-suited to them. The best way to change that is to break that scenario up with something that PC is unfamiliar with.

They're travelling across the country - things change over time, and there's plenty of opportunities for the DM's PC to be surprised by those things.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
0
\$\begingroup\$

Personally i think that GMPC are a great opportunity for a GM to increase the number of characters, so he can make a campaign more challenging without focusing on too much players and can experience some in character talk

Basically in combats, there should be no problem, but i would do the following if players directly ask the GMPC: if they are totally stuck with a puzzle or a clue, you can give them a hint (so the GMPC would be the hero of the moment), otherwise let the character act "stupid on purpose" and lead them in a wrong direction (try to find the best of both worlds)

Common PC's have also both, their time to shine and moments where they are completely helpless

EDIT: read your Q again, seemed i missed something, i don't know the exact scenario but the path you are travelling on could have changed since he travelled it?

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
-5
\$\begingroup\$

From personal experience GMPCs are just wrong, your GM should stop playing an GMPC immediately.

One big problem is, that the GM knows everything but should try to seperate his Characters knowledge from his GM knowledge, it will lead to bad / missing descriptions because he already knows how the scene looks which in turn won't give you enough info to come up with a plan.

Say your GM that you think you're just acting like minions for his Character and that you feel the game could be more interesting if you have decide things for yourself again.

If he wants to Play a character you should also discuss GM rotation.

As an alternative, just walk the path to the dark side and kill his character an take command of your now evil warband ;)

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You got a lot of down votes, but I think there is an important distinction between GM-PC and GM-NPC. There are certainly games that are intended to be GM-less, but D&D isn't one of them. A GM-NPC can be a valuable tool, and as you mention, could be used as a PC with GM rotation, but otherwise, I agree with your assessment. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Sep 24 '14 at 1:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ ah, oooh, i totally misread that facepalm thanks for clearing that up. maybe someday everybody will comment their downvotes like you \$\endgroup\$ – Dennis Christian Sep 24 '14 at 5:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think your reading of the OP is correct. I think most of the other answers reflect GM-NPC, even though that is not what was stated. It is unclear whether he is "playing" the GMPC or simply using him as an NPC. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Sep 24 '14 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ then it would be interesting why this answer gets so many downvotes... \$\endgroup\$ – Dennis Christian Sep 25 '14 at 6:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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