Sunday, June 7, 2020

Using my Soapbox to "Discourage" a Problem at Some Tables...

Using my Soapbox to "Discourage" a Problem at Some Tables...
So I'm not 100% when this post will be, well posted, but I'm running with the assumption that this will be my 1st weekly entry here at the Tavern.

There's so many things I could write about, but one thing popped into my head, something I feel strongly about and something that has a back story. There are probably three things I'm passionate about, well maybe five things, or 50........I really don't keep track, but clearly I'm a passionate, passionate man.....

So here I am with an audience....not entirely mine, but hey....I really ought to use this pulpit to educate and eradicate this one particular bane of RPGs. Seriously, there is no worse scourge than the abomination that is the.....wait for it....


Not the GameMaster working some temporary Non-Player Characters, but a full-on Player Character being run in the game side-by-side with the rest of the players. What's the harm in this, you might ask? Well 1st off, the GM should be impartial when running a game. I know some systems have the GM working in more of an adversarial role, but even if it was a cooperative game system, letting the GM run a PC is just.....it's just wrong. They should not be benefiting from the rulings they make at the table. If the GM wants to actually play on the other side of the table, then by all means....sit down as a player....with someone else serving as the GM. Switch off the duties and spread that work load around.

I was asked to join a gaming group once and eventually the GM left and another player stepped up to GM....but we had to let him run his PC with the others. Best damned thief you ever saw.....never missed a trap, always managed to land a backstab when the party needed it, etc. It was a little childish, but hey...it was a game....until it became too much. Because not everyone could game every week we had two different campaigns: one large group and one smaller group.

The larger group was running the Temple of Elemental Evil and I was playing a Pacifist Monk. It was a very specific build.......and wouldn't you know it, the GM had himself a PC with the same build! Thanks for letting me have something unique! The GMPC Monk was actually one of two GMPCs he had in this campaign. As we were going through the adventure there was one big battle where we were clearly heading for a Total Party Kill (TPK). More than half of the party was already dead, and most everyone else was sucking on fumes with single-digit HP left. My PC was in a position to make a break for it and flee the battle, which only made sense because the authorities needed to know what was going on and TPK would prevent that. Of course once my PC bolts the one GMPC, the other Pacifist Monk, miraculously manages to disengage as well. The next week's game we meet and somehow the GM justifies bringing all the dead PCs back to life, save one. His dead PC.....somehow managed to come back actually stronger than he was before he died....seriously, WTF?

We had his awesome Thief in the smaller group and nothing ever touched this PC, which was normal. Nothing new here, but without the other/older GM playing the level of control this PC had over our game was a bit much. Of course he always got the best magic items. I'd try to get the group to agree to some other method for the division of treasure. Didn't really matter, the GMPC got first pick again. This time though, we had one extra magic item, a cursed item at that. The PC who ended up with the last pick got the extra item.....which was my guy. The GM allowed us to sell whatever we didn't want based on some formula in the book, whatever. I had already sold the "extra".....come on it was cursed...item and was divvying that coin out to the other PCs when the GM pipes up, basically telling me to STFU because this time...this time my guy got two magic items when everybody else only got one.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back with me. I told him I'm out and he could go play with himself all he wanted.

The fun part was that on the next business day the GM stopped by my place of work to tell me that he talked with the group and he was "uncomfortable" GMing with me at the table.....wow...what part of "I quit" didn't he get.

Yeah, no more GMPCs at any table I'm playing at....never again. Sure you could write off that this GM was just an asshat or something else, but outside of the GMPC BS he ran a decent enough game. Clearly the temptation to...well I'll just say it....cheat, was too much. A GM cheating is a post in and of itself, but for the purposes of this post, a GM should not be in position where cheating gives a tangible benefit.


  1. Wow, never encountered that, but it goes against the whole grain of the hobby - the GM runs the world; the PCs interact with the world. Pick a side and stay on it! I'm actually uncomfortable with 'fudging' to benefit (non-GM) PCs. . .

  2. Hey Chris nice to see you here.

    Seems pretty crazy... I encountered this when I was 12 or 13 as a player. Usually it wound up in the campaign not lasting very long.

    I've introduced old PCs as NPCs dozens of times; usually as hireling fodder (adjusted for party level) or in non-combatant support roles. Mostly cause the sheets were handy and I just love playing those characters. I couldn't imagine any reason/purpose for stealing the show.

    The problem is the GM

  3. I've run a lot of GMPCs and never done any of these awful things. In fact, I usually go out of my way to use GMPCs in the opposite direction as borderline NPCs -- as the designated characters who die to show that "stuff is getting real", or as advisers who stick to the sidelines and only speak up to move the plot along when things get confusing.

    It really feels like you're overgeneralizing from a bad personal experience. Sorry it happened to you, of course.

    1. Sounds like you're not ready to admit being part of the problem...

  4. Sadly I have heard of this happening a number of times. My first group playing 3rd ed. did this, but that was because there were only three of us and we rotated DM duties, thankfully (at least as I remember) we were generally good at keeping our PC/NPC from being a problem. In one memorable case the DM's PC was invisible when he went below 0hp, we didn't realize he was down, and never found the body afterwards because he died without repaying a dept to Orcus... good times.


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