Monday, April 6, 2009

Bad Ideas: The DMPC

As a long time DM I have come to accept the fact that I will seldom get to play characters that develop over time, gain heroic reputations, or die gruesome deaths in questionable circumstances. In exchange I get to play gargantuan monsters, scheming villains, and try all sorts of unusual builds and combinations. I think it’s a fair trade off and I am actually real into it. Every DM has to be, or else they wind up making bad decisions and try to ram something as bizarre as the DMPC into their campaign. For those not in the know, a DMPC is a Dungeon Master Player Character, an oxymoron if there ever was one. Yes, some DM’s think that it’s a good idea to play a character as well as run a game.

I just don’t understand how it works and the thought of doing so seems more akin to schizophrenia than it does to roleplaying. For one, the character can’t really contribute much outside of combat without cheating. I don’t care what someone says, there is no way to just forget all the things you know and switch into another role. So essentially they are just relegated to be combat bots, and there is already a name for that. They are called NPC’s. Maybe the DM gets to level them up at the end of the day but they are hardly an actual character that is contributing. And what about during combat? The DM will obviously know exactly what they are fighting and what kind of tactics it will employ, so in turn the character will as well. Lame. And will the DM kill his own character, should it come to that?

And non combat situations are even weirder. Does the DM talk to his own PC? Does the PC answer back? Are the PCs asking questions that they already know the answer to? Don’t they know just who to ask and what to ask of them? I suppose that the DM could just have his DMPC stay out of social situations, which again brings them back to NPC status. None of it makes sense to me.

One other argument that I sometimes hear in support of the DMPC is that there are not enough players and someone is needed to fill X role in the party. “There is no healer in the party,” says the DM, “so I will control this Radiant Servant of Pelor that will be adventuring with you.” I think that a much better solution is to just tailor the campaign to what the PC’s do have. A couple years back I ran a campaign for two players; a monk and a ranger. Sure they were missing just about every iconic D&D character role, but I adjusted and things were just fine. If I had some personality void vending machine of healing following them around I doubt that it would have made the game more fun.


George K said...

I guess it's kinda like being Jesus. You are kind of a god, but you get to be a man too. Which makes you kinda deity like. An apropos analogy considering the time of year.

Lore said...

Actually it's not as bad an idea as it seems. It gives you a chance to interact with the players on their level, it helps you keep things in perspective. It helps if you have years of actual non Table top gaming under your belt and RP many different kinds of characters. It helps if you can partition yourself. Even if you end up answering your own NPCs then so be it, you're talking through the NPC and then the PC.

Anonymous said...

Just because you're a DM doesn't mean you know all the answers as a PC, because it's not about what you as a person knows, it's about what your character knows. Just because I set up a dungeon and know where all the traps and secrets are, does not mean my character does. That's the very core of role playing. Every PC is constantly forgetting what they know about monsters they've read about in the Monster Manuel and instead doing what they think their character would do in that situation. Well then why could the DM not do the same thing?.

Also, regarding the DM not being able to have a conversation between his PC and another NPC, well does that mean that two NPC's can never talk to each other?