There are some good books in the Forgotten Realms library. Do you use cameo characters form these books? If so how do you balance them with your campaign?

I know there was a campaign that came with character sheets for the main members of house Do'Urden. But if you ask me they didn't match how those characters really were in the books.

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I agree with Richard. Having famous, powerful characters from Forgotten Realms involved in your game can be a good way to shoot yourself in your feet. They can be so powerful to make trivial any quest and make your characters feel useless, and meeting them while your characters are low level is unlikely at best. Having Drizzt or Elminster have an active cameo appearance for your low-level characters is the equivalent of meeting Obama eating a cheeseburger at your local burger shop.

Note that this issue is not only for characters. Famous locations carry the same problem. Example: I am extremely fond of Silverymoon and the surroundings. Any mission starting from there with low level characters turns out to be kind of weird. You have NPCs like Alustriel, Taern Hornblade, and the Silver Knights, a bunch of abjurations protecting the city, powerful magic items and scrolls are for sale and common like a DVD player for us, and in the immediate nearby Mythral Hall. For an untrained DM, despite the amount of available descriptive information on these places, the locations and social interactions are so huge, diverse and powerful that rendering them properly is hard at best. Low-level characters will most likely feel out of place, like any of us would most likely feel out of place at a UN council session. As a result, any adequate danger that could appear in the surroundings will most likely be trivially handled by someone more powerful than your characters within seconds.

To solve this issue, I basically coerced a part of my players' character to be part of the "rookie" guards platoon of the Silver knights. This will most likely hand them appropriate challenges (such as a delivery escort, or a diplomatic meeting with natives in the nearby forest) to orders from their direct chief in command.

  • With respect, I am down-voting because your answer more or less takes the form "here's how to do a poor job of including powerful NPCs in your campaign, therefore do not use powerful NPC cameos." It does not, in my view, really do justice to the OP's question, and is not well reasoned. Also I have seen powerful NPC cameos woven beautifully into campaigns I have played in. – Lexible Oct 7 '15 at 15:58

It can be fun, for sure, but when doing this you have to be careful, and remember that in the books those characters may be the stars, but in your game it's the PCs who are the main characters and the stars.

It becomes even more tempting than ever to run the game for your NPCs instead of for your PCs when the NPCs are popular literary characters.

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    Very true. It's a definite potential pitfall as a Game Master. – zacharythefirst Aug 23 '10 at 20:34

I don't tend to use prominent NPCs a lot if at all. However, if I did, my top priority would be to keep them from overshadowing the PCs. Particularly in a heroic fantasy setting, the players ought to be the ones who get to feel like heroes. It's quite damaging to a campaign if the NPCs are saving the day all the time.

Since Forgotten Realms NPCs tend towards the powerful, it's pretty hard to bring them into the plot while keeping them from being the focus. You can always say they're busy with something more important, but then you've told the PCs that they're working on the unimportant things.

If you can come up with some reason why the NPCs think the PCs are important, that can work very well. Making the PCs the focus of a prophecy is a classic trick.

The other good trick, which really brings home the idea that your campaign belongs to the table rather than to anyone else's idea of canon, is to kill off one or two big important NPCs right off the bat. If you, forgive the cliche, kill Elminster in the first couple of sessions? Particularly if he's been acting like the classic important know-it-all Elminster who's more important than the PCs? Your players are going to be 100% sure that the Forgotten Realms you're playing in isn't bound by what Salvatore and Paul Kemp and the rest write.

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    I like the answer, but the powerful NPCs might be working on something harder without the NPCs being unimportant. Killing the lich is harder, but stopping his minions from attacking the village might be just as important, especially to the villagers. Also, Elminster in particular often got (before the spell plague) cameos in the novels to hand off advice or an assignment, and then moved on to his next task, leaving the star of that book just a bit better off than before. He works well in that role in games as well. – TimothyAWiseman Feb 27 '12 at 19:11

I had this issue when I ran a Serenity game -- do I include Mal, Inara, River, etc., or do I ignore that part of the world altogether? I ended up not including any of the characters in the TV series/movie, because a) I wanted the PCs to be the heroes, and b) I didn't want to distract from the game (hey, Mal or Badger wouldn't act that way). It worked out well.

I know I am joining the discussion relatively late, but I will respectfully disagree with Stefano. My players tend to like the cameos. It adds flavor and reinforces the idea that this is a Forgotten Realms game, the same forgotten realms these famous characters are from.

Instead of running into Obama getting a cheeseburger, it would be like being a nightclub magician/kiddie-party-magician and running into Penn and Teller getting lunch, which is very possible if you live in Vegas.

The key is to make sure they are cameos. Seeing Drizzt giving a lesson to some of the Knights of Silverymoon is nice flavor. Having him come to the character's rescue when they get overwhelmed in the region of Silverymoon might make the characters feel less heroic and might feel a bit deus ex machina, but it could still be an interesting scene if handled right. Having him actually travel with the group on the otherhand will horribly distort the game unless the characters are very high level.

Similarly, Alustriel isn't going to go meeting with every adventurer out there, but she no longer adventures personally, and in a time of crisis it is quite believable that one of her personal advisors might hire low-level character's to handle some of the side work while the famous heroes handle the maint thrust. ("Althuzimel the ancient dragon has arisen and gathered an army of followers! Drizzt and his group are going after the dragon, the Knights, under Alustriel's personal supervsion, will be handling the armies main thrust. But we need you to handle the east flank where we expect twenty orcs under Althuzimel's command to attack the outlying farms!") Done right, this is quite believable, injects a Forgotten Realms flavor intot he campaign, and makes the characters feel like part of something bigger, but without letting the famous personalities overwhelm the game or letting the characters part be unimportant. (Alastriel herself might never notice the characters that protected the farms to the east, but her advisor will pay for their work, and the actual farmers will be eternally grateful and they still participated in events that involved Drizzt and Alustriel.)

Your players are intended to be heroes. Reference many books were powerful character/saint/avatar visit what is then a low level character destined for greatness. But many of the comments above apply world should be yours and how you picture the characters or it wont be as fun.

I agree with the other answers and even the 4e FR campaign setting book says that a lot of the super powerful characters from before the Spellplague were removed so that players could be in the spotlight.

I used famous characters some times. But rarely as traveling companions and more as quest givers. For example, Alustries onece gave my party a quest that needed to be done by unknown outsiders. Only Drizzt once traveled with us during a wilderness skill challange as a guide.

But I like the super powerful villans. In a campaign long ago we fought constantly against the church of Bane and in the end even defeated Fzoul Chembryl. And in the book Undead by Richard Lee Byers, Szas Tam teleports in the camp of his most annoying opponents (the book's protagonists) and sits and talks with them. He says that he can kill them all with a tought but that it's beneath him to do that and event offers them to join him. That's a cool way of using super powerfull villans.

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