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NatemusMaximus

Double Duty - GMing and running a PC

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I'm fairly new to the forums and I'm not sure if this has come up yet.  How many GMs out there also have a PC?

 

When I first started GMing my group I didn't, as I was new to the game as well and thought it would be too difficult to do both.  In the session before last, our group had finished Long Arm of the Hutt and it felt like a good time to let anyone change their character, as well as add a character of my own.

 

So far I haven't found it too difficult to do both.  I try and keep it fair by having the rest of the group take the lead and my PC tags along for the ride.  My PC doesn't make too many decisions but will assist when asked by a fellow party member.  At this point, keeping PC knowledge from GM knowledge hasn't been too difficult, and the rest of the group seems to enjoy me playing a character as well.

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I usually have a PC type character in most games I run. Partly because it's fun to have a little bit of "me" in the group, but also because it's an easy way to have an in-game tool to aid in controlling things. The PC is usually someone that takes the sidelines(the players are still the main characters in the game after all) but is related to the story. I tend to keep them out of major events though so I'm not helping decide outcomes too much.

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I wasn't going to, but my players kind of adopted one of my NPCs after he fell on some hard times. I thought he'd just be left behind when he stopped mattering (he didn't matter for very long, actually) but then the players offered him a paycheck and a spot on their ship. He's now more of a "feeler" for the party, going out and doing his own thing and coming back with new information for the party. It's actually really convenient so that I can actually give in character advice to the players as well. Lots of cautionary tales out there though. I really don't think of him as a PC, though I think a few of my players do.

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My group did with D&D, that PC would usually sit back and let the players have their spotlight, but if say, the garbage smashers were going and no one was skilled enough to slice the garbage smashers off, then the the GM's PC would step in and help out.

 

Now personally, I dislike the GM playing PCs because, the GM has enough going on in addition to the playing their character.  And 2, depending on the GM, at least in my case, I worry about the GM Metagaming with his character.

 

What I tend to do is keep the GM's character out of game, and once the session or adventure is over, if there are multiple GMs, is offer the GM the same amount of XP that the players get because if no one is a dedicated GM and that player just wings GMing, then it's not his fault that no one is willing to GM this adventure.

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I usually do.  I find it an effective way to help keep things on track, provide information, have some cavalry at hand if I underestimated the opposition, etc.  I'm very careful to keep the GM-PC out of the spotlight, only "showing off" when there aren't major consequences, and mostly just to set the GM-PC's reputation.  I certainly avoid the GM-PC being a deus ex mechanic, and don't use them to save the players from their own actions.

 

It also gives me a chance to be a player (which I don't expect I'll ever be able to do with this system :( ) and have the fun of XP spending and character development.

 

Currently for my son's campaign it's just me and him.  He runs two characters, but he needed somebody to handle "crowd control" when things get squirrely.  Enter the ex-detective, targeted by the same gang my son was after, and saved from certain death.

 

For my "team 50" campaign (we're all over 50 now), I haven't added one yet, but it's been in the back of my mind and I plan to do so soon.

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I did this with Thweek from Long Arm of the Hutt and the beginner game. I actually play him like a hick (think Kenneth from 30 rock) and he tags along with them, heads off on errands and handles a lot of the day to day smuggling stuff that players forget.

 

IE: "Hey ya'll, don't forget to meet up with that there smugglin' baron you made a deal with! He's waiting at the wheel - 'fore you know it, that boy'll be gone!"

 

I did it as a lark and the group thought it was hilarious, as he's not *stupid*, just a bit of a redneck who knows almost everyone in the outer rim. I have a few NPC's that will travel or work with the players, but he's by far my favorite.

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I think it's workable so long as you stick to certain limitations (which it sounds like you're already doing).

  1. GM duties come first. If you can't juggle both, then send the GMPC off to Dagobah or have him address some off-screen issue related to the current adventure.
  2. Don't upstage the "stars." In combat, maybe narrate a few rounds of movment and missed shots to let the PCs get their moments in the spotlight. Then step in and take a few real shots once the action has peaked and it's time to clean up.
  3. Don't be a crutch. Separate GM-knowledge from GMPC-knowledge. If the others seek his advice, try to offer whatever answer the character would logically give. Sometimes that answer might be a shrug and an offhand, "I dunno, maybe we should blow it up?" Related to that, don't let the players believe that advice from the GMPC is advice from the GM. Otherwise, they might feel tricked if his ideas lead them into trouble. This can be a tricky balance for some GMs to find.
  4. Avoid interaction with other NPCs. It gets weird if the group is just sitting there watching you argue with yourself.

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I typically don't have a PC type in with the group. I do have my recurring NPCs but they don't really go on the adventures with the group. I usually have four to six players in my group so there is no need. I have had one or two people groups before and then I will have a more prominent NPC who will work with the PCs. I don't agree with the GM having a "PC", as I get to play all the NPCs and the focus with one of them can be long, but I want to showcase my group, and make them the heros, not me. I don't like the player vs GM mentality, but I am the bad guys they are the good guys. :) I want my guys to be the heros, not me. :)

Hey if it is working with you and your group, then it works. If it becomes a problem, ditch him. There is really nothing wrong with having your pc in the group as long as the players don't mind. It all boils down to the fun factor. If you all are enjoying the time, then keep at it!!

So good luck to you, your PC, and your group.

Punch it Chewie!

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I use an NPC in my groups. I have a habit of making them decent and lovable characters so that the group becomes emotionally invested, then I kill them off! Oh man the shell shocked looks and balling players I get.

My wife (repeated victim of such a tactic) is sitting across the table from me insulting me as I type this :P

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I think it's workable so long as you stick to certain limitations (which it sounds like you're already doing).

  1. GM duties come first. If you can't juggle both, then send the GMPC off to Dagobah or have him address some off-screen issue related to the current adventure.
  2. Don't upstage the "stars." In combat, maybe narrate a few rounds of movment and missed shots to let the PCs get their moments in the spotlight. Then step in and take a few real shots once the action has peaked and it's time to clean up.
  3. Don't be a crutch. Separate GM-knowledge from GMPC-knowledge. If the others seek his advice, try to offer whatever answer the character would logically give. Sometimes that answer might be a shrug and an offhand, "I dunno, maybe we should blow it up?" Related to that, don't let the players believe that advice from the GMPC is advice from the GM. Otherwise, they might feel tricked if his ideas lead them into trouble. This can be a tricky balance for some GMs to find.
  4. Avoid interaction with other NPCs. It gets weird if the group is just sitting there watching you argue with yourself.

 

 

Thanks for the tips.  I feel like I have 1 and 2 under control.  My character is not combat heavy, more of a support class at this point.  And as for 3, my group has told me there is a noticeable difference between when I'm GMing and when I'm in character.  And as for 4, I'm glad this hasn't come up yet.  I'll probably just narrate the scene if this happens instead of talking to myself :wacko: .

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:P 

 

 

I think it's workable so long as you stick to certain limitations (which it sounds like you're already doing).

  1. GM duties come first. If you can't juggle both, then send the GMPC off to Dagobah or have him address some off-screen issue related to the current adventure.
  2. Don't upstage the "stars." In combat, maybe narrate a few rounds of movment and missed shots to let the PCs get their moments in the spotlight. Then step in and take a few real shots once the action has peaked and it's time to clean up.
  3. Don't be a crutch. Separate GM-knowledge from GMPC-knowledge. If the others seek his advice, try to offer whatever answer the character would logically give. Sometimes that answer might be a shrug and an offhand, "I dunno, maybe we should blow it up?" Related to that, don't let the players believe that advice from the GMPC is advice from the GM. Otherwise, they might feel tricked if his ideas lead them into trouble. This can be a tricky balance for some GMs to find.
  4. Avoid interaction with other NPCs. It gets weird if the group is just sitting there watching you argue with yourself.

 

 

Thanks for the tips.  I feel like I have 1 and 2 under control.  My character is not combat heavy, more of a support class at this point.  And as for 3, my group has told me there is a noticeable difference between when I'm GMing and when I'm in character.  And as for 4, I'm glad this hasn't come up yet.  I'll probably just narrate the scene if this happens instead of talking to myself :wacko: .

 

It's okay to talk to yourself, it's okay to answer yourself, but when you can't figure out what language your speaking in, that's when you have a problem. ;)  :P  :lol:

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In my earlier days I would also play a GMPC, but it got to the point where one or more of a few scenarios would happen.

 

1. My GMPC would fill the spotlight.

2. My players would probe the GMPC for information on where to go or what to do next.

3. I would use the GMPC as a mouthpiece

4. My GMPC would fade into the background and just be a fixture when I was trying to manage other NPCs

5. I would award something to the GMPC and I would feel like I was playing favoritism

6. Combat would become chaos because I have to manage a full-blown GMPC as well as all the baddies.

7. Inadvertently my GMPC will become the face and I am stuck having conversations with myself while the rest of the party just stands there not participating.

 

 

After a while I realized how bad of an idea me playing a PC was. So I have since stopped. Sometimes I will have an npc hang around them for a little bit and help them with the fighty, but I usually have them part ways at some point.

Edited by kaosoe

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I feel swamped while GMing. 

 

To me, running a heroic NPC is far more trouble than its worth.  While I can certainly understand the appeal, after all, many folks find playing more enjoyable than GMing, myself included, it comes with its own set of challenges.

 

For example, "I totally know how to solve that encounter, I wrote it" but on the other hand, I don't want to remove the challenge from my players.

 

I say, "if running a heroic NPC while also GMing you go, only pain will you find."

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I have GMPC's generated that will occasionally join the party as an ally or as a temporary companion either to fill a utility role or as part of the ongoing narrative. Behind the scenes it lets me create & tinker with neat builds that otherwise might not see the table at all, even in "enemy" form. I've had no issues running these types of characters alongside my other npc's or with the actual players. I don't think I could have handled it a year ago, but my GMing has come along quite a bit and it's fairly effortless now.

Edited by GmMichael

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I started running a permanent pc/npc in D&D when we lost a player. I started running a cleric to help fill the gap the player left behind. I used it as a heal bot and a utility NPC that the party had to direct during play. So i wasn't leaking GM info, and I wasn't stealing any of the game play from the PCs.

 

I am doing that here, running an astromech droid that the party has fallen in love with. I use it to skill monkey for the party, inject a little chaos and humor, and to help prod along game play if the PCs get into arguments. I RP'd it just enough to establish a personality, but if they party needs to droid do something they have to specifically ask so i'm not giving out hints through the droid, the droid interacts only with the party, so NPC interaction is all on my players, i don't use the droid in combat, unless they party asks the droid to do something (like unlock a door, turn off and alarm etc..) So the game play is still all on the party, but the droid does provide me a useful tool at the table.

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Yes I currently have one. The players really wanted to have a Doctor and no one wanted to roll with playing one so I told them I would make a Doctor GM PC for their group however when reward time comes he gets a split just like everyone else does. This has worked out tremendously well. During the game if I need to I will RP with him however someone else has the character sheet. They can make the rolls and use him in combat and if I have a particular action I know he should do I tell them. Played like this, I level him up between sessions and RP with him but mechanically it is like I am not even playing a PC since my players sometimes rotate out who has the Doctor every session. He is also the Politico since no one had social skills and splitting between both makes him not good at both but he doesn't excel at any so he doesn't outshine the players either. But I love making his back story so the players don't know. Why do these Bounty Hunters keep showing up to take the Doctor? Why will he not tell them? They cannot afford to loose him because he is the answer to those crippled limbs. Mwhaha.

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Yes I currently have one. The players really wanted to have a Doctor and no one wanted to roll with playing one so I told them I would make a Doctor GM PC for their group however when reward time comes he gets a split just like everyone else does. This has worked out tremendously well. During the game if I need to I will RP with him however someone else has the character sheet. They can make the rolls and use him in combat and if I have a particular action I know he should do I tell them. Played like this, I level him up between sessions and RP with him but mechanically it is like I am not even playing a PC since my players sometimes rotate out who has the Doctor every session. He is also the Politico since no one had social skills and splitting between both makes him not good at both but he doesn't excel at any so he doesn't outshine the players either. But I love making his back story so the players don't know. Why do these Bounty Hunters keep showing up to take the Doctor? Why will he not tell them? They cannot afford to loose him because he is the answer to those crippled limbs. Mwhaha.

 

This reminds me of a Rodian tech psuedo GM PC I had in an old Saga game. The players needed someone to do the upkeep on their ship while they were out and about on thier adventures so I threw him into the game. The players liked him and his personality so much that they insisted on giving him an equal cut of all the income, even though he originally signed on for a lower share. He owed a lot of money due to an unhealthy compulsion to bet on swoop races, unknown to the players of course. Collectors started showing up when the group was at spaceports and what-not and they couldn't figure out why because the Rodian would always play dumb about it. Then, as a story hook for an adventure, he was taken away while the group was away from the ship.

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I usually avoid playing a regular party NPC just because I don't want to influance the Players's decisions that way, however in EotE I have been playing the Astromech Droid because it's useful to have around and fills in with some of the missing tech skills. The way I do it is I have one of the Player's, sometimes through their PC sometimes directly, tell me what they would like the Droid to do and then I decide how they do it. It has been pretty amusing on occasion... I never intentionally do anything that will screw with the party but sometimes their requests are a little beyond what the Droid can do well, they don't know his stats and for some reason haven't thought to ask (an oversight I'm sure they will eventually get around to addressing), but the little guy does the best he can :)

 

 

Plus it's an excuse to say "Bee Boop Bleep Bloop..."

Edited by FuriousGreg

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To each his own, but I prefer to not to use GM PCs for a number of reasons. I believe that any GM who wants to enjoy playing a PC (but still wants to GM) can't give proper attention and focus to the group. While you are deciding your character's action, the rest of the group's eyes glaze over. They have no reason to be engaged unless the stakes are very high.

 

There are plenty of other pitfalls that GMs managing GM PCs need to avoid as well...such as stealing limelight, player/versus GM knowledge, or railroading.

 

The most basic reason is that you are the GM and are not required to adhere to character creation rules. Just make an NPC to fill a gap in the party's needs.

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