The GM’s PCs
I have to admit, that when I first starting planning my first adventure I fell headfirst into this trap. I created a really Jedi character that I would love to play (and still would love to play), put him in the campaign and planned to have him as a sort of vehicle to explain a few things to my only player. Then a friend pointed out to me this little article and I was a little wiser.
My cool Jedi Guy still remained in the game, still remained somewhat an Exposition Fairy, but was more on a part-time basis since he kept doing his Jedi Disappearing Act (though not the Obi-Wan kind) and finally was left behind by the players so he could hold off Ms Dark Jedi so the players could complete his mission for him. And the best part? I managed to retroactively connect his mission to free his Padawan, the Dark Jedi girl with the kidnapping plot and a Big Space Battle that ended in a Star Wars-style dungeon crawl. Not bad, actually, particularly when I had no idea how to go about running a campaign when I began.
But this is not about that, and I have taken way too much of a liberty in rambling on this time so I’ll get to the point. What I mean by the other kind of GMPC are playable characters that I have in my folder that I keep onhand for the simple purpose of introducing novices to the game. Pretty much all of my players were rather unsure if they were willing to commit to the game, so these PCs were a rather good introduction.
They serve another purpose. To many, roleplaying games are a fairly new concept and the quick maths of the mechanics of the game are quite enough to get your head around without jumping through the hoops of character creation. This isn’t D&D, sourcebooks for the Star Wars Saga edition are rather more expensive ($80AU for Star Wars as opposed to $50AU for the Player’s Handbook) and if the GM is the only one who owns one, she’s not exactly willing to lend you hers, is she? And there’s not even the funky Character Builder that I can handout legally to my players, but I addressed this in a previous post.
And that doesn’t mean the players are with them forever. More than often, they discover they like the game and then roll up a character of their own afterwards, with my help of course as it’s my book.
Also, I discovered something rather funny about these PCs, and not just when two different players play them. They are a lot more personal than prominent NPCs, and therefore ripe for the transition to actual NPC-hood with a lot more prominent plotpoints attached.
Let me tell you about Charuna. Charuna is a Trandoshan Scoundrel, he has two character sheets. One that began at Level 1 (probably level 3 now) and another at Level 4. He was among the first (perhaps even the first) characters that I created and the reason he has a Level 4 sheet as well as a Level 1 was I was testing out the game and looking at level progression.
When I first playtested my campaign (by myself, I may add) he was one of the PCs along with a Twi’lek soldier named Kenwar. I think I played the campaign about three times with the two of them, to the point where I talked to myself and referred to them by name.
Come game time, when I had more players, I showed new ones who came to the table these sheets and Charuna got an actual player for one session. Then, he was dropped when the player made his own character and picked up again session after that by another player. The interesting part about the second time he was played was that the party already knew him. And then he exited stage left yet again.
In my short break while I was crafting the next campaign, I decided to bring Charuna back. I needed some sort of bounty hunter to have hold of the princess and serve as an antagonist to the start of the campaign. I also needed to find a way to link the military-oriented characters to the fringe-oriented characters, and Charuna managed to tick all the boxes. And, before the end of the campiagn, he exited stage-left yet again. I think he’s languishing in prison as the players decided to spare him and let the local authorities take him away rather than kill him.
I see these sort of GMPCs as a step up from retired PCs, and I am much more willing to make these characters crossover to NPC as player can fell rather attached to their own character, particularly if I don’t play them right.