« on: March 22, 2018, 02:30:57 PM »
0) It's hard to DM. It is. Controlling a PC makes it harder. DMs often do this because its still fun. However if they aren't grown-ups who value the fun of their PCs more, they probably are bad players in addition to DMs. All the 'I want to kill my party member!' or 'How can I stop the rogue from stealing from me?' threads are basically the same thing; one PC doesn't care about another PC. This is bad, including and especially when the DM does it. But it doesn't mean that all PCs are this way. It just means there are some bad PCs. Likewise, we are going to assume the DM is not one of these 'problem players' when playing a DMPC. If he is, you've got a big problem because he can't be told that he should just play his DMPC and let someone else DM; his DMPC turned real PC will still be a problem that needs addressed. I am also assuming said problem player is not somehow a better gamer and person by having the extra responsibilities of being DM. The only real option is to have said bad player/DM not play; The DMPC abuse is really just a symptom of other problems. That said, there are still guidelines to make sure every DM knows how to DMPC even better than they otherwise would.
1) DMPC's are treated, made, and act exactly like a PC except for the below.
When I say exactly, I mean exactly. This includes embarrassing things like letting your PC make possibly lethal mistakes, and rolling for the DM, which is you.
2) DMPC's must optimize ... differently.
That's right. DMPC's must optimize. They just don't optimize like other players. This optimization isn't so the DMPC can be awesome. This is so the players are can be awesome. Though, in its role, the DMPC will be awesome at it. Let's say you are building a Rogue for a classic, very source-limited 5 man band. Rogues often take the role of DPS. Sneak attack is fun like that. But your role is not to have fun like a player. Your role is for your players to have fun. KS'ing all the monsters makes your players feel cheated. So no DPS rogue, unless specifically asked for by players (perhaps a player get's kicks out of a over-optimized grapple-pin build but wants your to finish off the grapplee).
Instead your goal for said above rogue is to fill in the holes as a skill monkey. That way players don't worry about traps or having awful rolls as a party-face. Your DMPC can take ranks in the skills the players don't want, rather than getting stuck at low levels trying to untie the damsel in distress from the dragon's lair. Such use rope rolls are made where everyone can see. This way they participate in the tension and are glad you made the check.
3) DMPC's never steal the spotlight.
A DMPC is not a player in search of glory. He is a shadow for the players to help support them. Only the worst of DMs, after building their character to make the PCs useless, actually go through with the deal and dominate comabt ... or show how powerful they are ... or give exposition that wasn't asked for ... or go off on their own story ... or cause inter-party conflict ... or generally do anything but be the perfect 'yes-man' player that would never break any kind of gentleman's agreement. Indeed if a DMPC is actively getting screwed over by another player, this is not a problem like it would be for banal player vs player tension. The DM has other things to worry about. If his DMPC get's screwed over by another PC, then that's still mission accomplished: the PCs are engaging the game, having fun, and suceeding on what they want to do.
4) A DMPC never guides the story or uses metagaming information, even in ways players might not notice.
Even the best intentioned DMs might be tempted to make their DMPC vote (all parties are democracies right?) on the 'expected' or 'right' solution in order to help steer parties towards an expected story outcome. Clever players, or just those that wish to suck up to the DM, might then change their votes because they know the DMPC always choses the 'right' answer. Instead DMPCs motivations should be simple and seemingly one dimensional so that PCs know what the DMPC will chose without asking. This is of course independent of the story line. It is perfectly exceptable to vote against the party, so long as the DMPC says, 'Well, I lost the vote,' and that is the end of the DMPC's resistance to the PC's and therefore the party's plan.
5) DMPCs have the worst of being a player, as well as the worst of being an NPC.
This one might not seem intuitive. Let's say as a (good) DM, but you don't use the "Players roll all the dice" variant. So you run through and record combat rolls (initiative, two rounds monster's attacks, etc) ahead of time in addition to your map-making and campaign research duties. After all, you don't want to slow down combat with all this monster rolling. Keep the action on your PCs. Wait, you're not going to slow down combat with your DMPC, are you? That's right, you have some extra pre-rolls to do.
DMPC's don't have any information than any other NPC does. And yet, they have even lower tolerance for metagaming (ever watch a player search or move through a dungeon slowly when the DM asks what the highest PC's spot total is?). If you are unable to separate character knowledge from game knowledge as a player, then it will be impossible to do so as a DMPC without being called out on it by the other PCs.
Remove all 'breaks' that you might give a character when RAW goes against RAI and would ordinarily rule in favor of helping out a PC. Players aren't always fair in assessing what they see as favoritism, so it is suggested that you use a lower point buy, the elite array (like an NPC), or other methods to show that the DMPC is plain old worse off than other PCs, especially if you intend to play "smart". Of course, this is a balancing act. In general, take queues from your players concerning the DMPC, just as players take queues from the campaign from the DM. If your players are all tier 4 or 5, don't play a tier 1 or 2. If they all put ranks in hide and move silently, don't ruin their stealth. Just because you are building your own character with its own motivations, doesn't mean you can actually be a straight up ignorable NPC. Even players that realize how suspiciously similar in power level (damage output, HP, speed, etc) a DMPC is to the PCs, won't have a problem with it. Sometimes mediocrity is good.