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Common Pitfalls of Tabletop Gaming: GMPC's

In lieu of a condensed, centralized article addressing the numerous pitfalls one may encounter while engaging in tabletop gaming, I thought I'd launch a sort of 'mini-series', to better elaborate upon each individual topic. Hopefully, this detailed and compartmentalized series of posts will serve to better retain your valuable attention span and increase my blog regularity.


The first installment of this series shall draw attention to a practice commonly employed by Hosts worldwide: the implementation and use of personally-created playable characters (GMPC's). The acronym, clearly inspired by the short-hand for a typical player character (PC), refers to a fully-functional avatar under the direct control of a Host. This differs from the various conjured figures at large (NPC's) in that said creation possesses many of the average adventurer's capabilities. For all intents and purposes, they too, are as talented (if not more so), as the supposed 'stars' of the campaign. This drift from NPC to PC in terms of power and importance is the center of much controversy associated with these figures. For your consideration, I shall present the main opposing sides of this debate as concisely as I can.


Against GMPC's

Horror stories abound, the majority of those who protest the use of GMPC's have, at one point or another, suffered from the traumatic encounters often inflicted by an amateur Host and its character. Said incidents, though varying by nature, often come by way of a 'deus ex machina'; an attention-monopolizing opportunity for the Host's custom-made, super-special character to show just how much better they are than the PC's by bailing them out of a tough situation. Such interventions, when used outside of the rare last-minute twist, are not just a poor method of storytelling, but also the quickest way to alienate and aggravate one's players. To be perpetually saved and placed at the mercy of a vastly superior force controlled by a supposedly impartially benevolent force is a highly disconcerting one, as it forces them into a secondary position of importance; that is, to simply drift through the story until someone stronger shows up to ultimately save the day. Unfortunately, this abuse of Host powers is quite prolific with amateur practitioners of the game, a sad fact that serves to continually strengthen the general enmity towards GMPC's.


For GMPC's

Some are fortunate enough to have relatively pleasant experiences with GMPC's, while others have thoroughly endured an intrusive bout of escapism, but both agree that these characters can, and often are, implemented in a constructive fashion. The key, they argue, is to design a character whose strength compensates for a critical weakness of the party. Said weakness, though I certainly can't speak for all cases, typically comes by way of direct player support, such as a healer, or negotiator. In my experience, few players are eager to play the largely pacifist role of doctor/diplomat/etc., so Hosts are often found conjuring some manner of character to mitigate these flaws. For anyone who's ever stared down the possibility of a total party kill, these individuals serve as a highly-appreciated intervention (and a potential plot device, if they become too attached to said character).


Personally, my stance on this practice is entire contextual. If dealing with a group of novice players, I'll have the foresight to rectify any glaring flaws in their team dynamic with a tasteful GMPC. If Hosting an experienced group on the other hand, I shall leave the foresight entirely up to them, as they really should 'know better' by that point. If their lack of inter-party communication should fail them when team roles are called into question, they'll be all the better for the learning experience.

44 comments:

Intraman said...

this is a great idea for a mini series!

Dejch said...

thanks for teh info!

mindlessfrk said...

Well, everyone was a noob sometime.

//Love said...

I think it's currently too complicated for this to work. But with alot of testing and stuff, maybe it could get better

Jordan Vargas said...

Interesting.

HOODPHENOMENOM said...

nice post, a bit too specific maybe :P

Fortune said...

Host/GM is there to tell a story-- and through the story control the actions if any. A player is just a horse in the race.

Jake said...

It could work

Dola said...

pretty good points you make i miss table top gaming =\

Wolle said...

good to know

DocStout said...

I ran with a guy who always had his own PC in his games, and frequently ran scenarios encouraging interparty conflict... and had his PC take a side or even occasionally instigate. Very frustrating.

The Viking said...

That mini series sounds like a pretty good idea :)

Whitelight said...

Great post!

Chloroform said...

I think it all depends on the GM/Host on how smoothly things go.

Jesse Crows said...

very cool. never thought of that!

Xenototh said...

Uhg, I always hated GMPCs. It was like the GM's knew that their stories had gaping holes that PCs would fall into, and that was there was of fixing it.

Bob said...

Hmm interesting...

Will follow this blog.

James said...

that's pretty genius :D

cheshire said...

Fantastic post again, bro. I've never experienced any GMPC's in my gaming life, but i suppose that's mostly because I play the FPS genre.

RageCompeX said...

nice, inpressive

Zertuzzi said...

neat blog mmmm

Help Sketch said...

Interesting...

Niko said...

Oh very Nice !

whopressedplay said...

insane. nice blog dude.

Blogger said...

O_O

Asty said...

amateur GMPC = failz

liquidelle said...

Interesting post, thanks!

psychologypost said...

they usually ruin games.

Android APPS said...

makes me want to go nuts
Book of Shadows

bb31 said...

nice read... following!

zemzero said...

Nice read, cool blog.

Jesse Crows said...

this sounds a little complicated

Lasse said...

Nice :D

ChazWellington said...

whats the GM of GMPC stand for? i got the pc part lol

Come At Me Bro said...

This is great!

Sean said...

Very imformative but sadly I don't know of anyone that still plays tabletop games

Brofessor Neeko said...

Seems pretty interesting to me

HujoThug8825 said...

Been wanting to get into table top stuff for a while

theWhale said...

Hopefully some of all the noobs out there reads this and learns something!

Blk Jesus said...

very interesting

psychpost said...

some of them are dumb >_>

Jesse Crows said...

you should update more often haha

t30 said...

good review!

Mike said...

This is a very interesting analysis.

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