Friday, December 10, 2010

The DM's Mouthpiece

Gandalf was it for Tolkein... assuming LotR was written as an RPG campaign.

Elminster has that role in the Forgotten Realms.

Greyhawk it is had to tell, as the main NPCs in the setting were the PCs from the original days. Maybe the Circle of Eight, but they were standoff-ish.

I don't know Eberron well enough to identify a DM's Mouthpiece.

I know I used such back in my High School days... the NPC that could impart the necessary knowledge to get the PCs on track.

Now I'm trying to identify such an individual in my work location. ;)

In any case, is such an individual needed, or even necessary, in an RPG campaign?

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  1. The rule stands: if the scene needs exposition, then the scene sucks.

    A good adventure shouldn't need a character as a mouthpiece - a DM can use everything around the characters to 'send messages', so to speak.

    Just my two cents.

  2. I agree scottsz on the point but sometimes in a comedy adventure is fun to use something like Dungeon master from the old game. In addition, I find that it can be fun to have some npcs that are 'greater' than the players in experience. It gives them something to look up to. I am no saying that the NPC should do everything for the party or even be involved in most decisions but I am saying it is nice to have something like that in the game from time to time.

    As far as those narratives for Toliken I like Gandolf but then the Lord of the Rings was written as a narrative not as an interactive story.

    The problem becomes that like with any collaboration game an RPG is an interactive game and no adventurer likes to have the super npc save the day all the time.

    Now that being said I DO sometimes use a patron but that is usually to give the players jobs, tasks that kind of thing.

  3. I think there are places for such critters. I tend to use extremely low-powered characters for that sort of thing: sages, old guys missing an eye who sit around and tell stories for the price of an ale, apprentices, that sort of thing. Being such, they always have to be invited to impart their knowledge, which allows the players some say in when and how they get their exposition.

  4. The rule of thumb for television and movies is, "If two characters in a scene are talking about a third, the scene is garbage." While that may work really well for visual media, where you can instruct the viewer about the world/plot/character by showing them images, our hobby relies heavily upon narration and dialogue. In light of that, I think it's okay for there to be NPCs the players can go see to learn more about the world around them.

  5. 'a DM can use everything around the characters to 'send messages' - I agree with this

    I have used one in the past in a game where there was a schedule of events and PCs were up against the clock. An annoying intelligent sword based on C3PO.

    Usually I prefer my NPCs to be unreliable sources of information - which is usually biased and fragmented. The players decide which of the truths to follow. There is no ONE track even if there is a desired goal.

  6. Yes and no.

    If the characters are interesting in exploring a well developed setting, that various characters that can act as the GM's mouth piece work well in this role. Pathfinder does a good job of this with well, the Pathfinder society. The Forgotten Realms,despite the use of Elminster in your notes, actually benefited more from the Harpers and other organizations hwere players could gather information and share their thoughts.

    If the campaign is meant for the GM to mainly run his own material and not be a full fledge campaign setting, than providing the 'mentors', if you will, as necessary, should be done in the adventure itself if at all. After all, in talking about 'cosmic horror', the true horror is learning for oneself just how pale and punny one is eh?

  7. First of all, I just have to say that I see every NPC as the GM's mouthpiece, in one way or another. Characters like Gandalf will often be seen as a more formal one than Random Traveller #14, but that is because Gandalf is wise and knows much, and he will most likely have his own agenda.

    By removing all such characters I believe you say a just as much about the world as by including them.

    My approach is to have several of these NPCs about, and they each have different sources and agendas, that way the players still have to make up their own mind, instead of blindly following whatever advice they're given.

  8. Mouthpiece is a weak technique, the weak sauce of bad GMing, dude!

    Don't fall into that trap. Read the Mamet memo for inspiration.

  9. This made me consider the question further, and here are my thoughts on the issue.


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