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Thread: How do you get to show off your NPCs?

  1. #1
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    How do you get to show off your NPCs?

    The question is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, especially since I'm (unfortunately) not even running a game at the moment, but it is something I wonder about.

    As far as I can see, the majority of M&M players tend to really like designing and building characters, and that extends to GMs too. I've only run a few scattered sessions of M&M here and there, but I've gotten familiar with the rules and am currently putting together a setting and an ever-expanding roster of characters for a game I hope to run in the future, you know the drill.

    However, any decent GM can probably tell you that making the PCs sit and watch while your precious NPCs act cool and fight each other for extended periods is generally in bad taste, and rightfully so. "DMPCs" are particularly infamous in D&D circles, for instance. Villains get to show off when the heroes fight them, obviously, but fellow heroes and supporting characters aren't expected to get much spotlight: the focus should generally be on the PCs, and even if NPCs have their cool fights "off screen", the players obviously won't get to see those. There's only so many ways you can make the heroes fight each other before it gets old, too.

    The most obvious answer is to do big fight scenes where the allies act as backup against a large group of enemies, but those might get bogged down by numbers; alternatively, in a perfect world, the players think the NPCs are cool too and don't mind taking a short breather to watch them duke it out. Perhaps the NPCs are already on the scene and trying to hold back the villain when the PCs finally arrive to relieve them. I've even considered the idea of letting the players spend a hero point to summon timely backup (if plausible and not story-breaking given the circumstances; probably restricted to big widespread battles where they can't all gang up on the same villain) so they won't feel like the GM is forcing the NPCs on them, but I dunno if that's workable.

    Ultimately though, any hamfisted attempt by the GM to move the attention onto their NPCs can come off as a bit self-indulgent, even if understandable. I don't assume this is a game-breaking issue around most tables - especially as I have little experience with hands-on play - but I am curious if people have any views and/or experiences on it, whether as a GM or as a player.
    Last edited by Levander; 08-10-2018 at 01:42 PM.

  2. #2
    OPA Belta SignalGK's Avatar
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    Re: How do you get to show off your NPCs?

    Other than general background characters or useful information sources, most of my regular NPCs come from my players backstories not me. The concept (and name/role) comes from the players but are expanded on by me as GM and they primarily show off what they can do through bluebooking) https://mm3e.wordpress.com/bluebooking/ if you don't know what that is;

    I do my bluebooking through informal and irregular PBEM sessions where I get to expand on the players and NPC characters without taking away from or slowing down the players in play whilst they also have input into each story. Its also a useful way to highlight investigations.

    So girlfriend for the player than wanted a romantic interest and some pathos was a character called Annie - android body, hacker for the team, dad's a villain etc. but with a kickass attitude as requested. In comparison another player who also claimed to want a girlfriend never really interacted with the character they wanted so she remains very much a background character and as a source of information. That's fine if that is what suits the player.

    An Alfred character created by another player is Jeeves, Ex-SAS and butler who was possessed when first found. He now runs the teams base.

    Others are the Police liaison, pilot (team members brother) and tech genius, Micky Angelo - she makes all their toys as well as some gismos they hate - robotic sentry dogs anyone?

    The players love them and they play them as secondary characters (or they remain in the background on standby) when playing and interacting with them during face-to-face. I hand over their sheets and only interfere if the players run the characters badly or different from previously agreed.

    NPCs only work if they add to the players experience not if they are always stealing the scene or taking the focus away from the players.

  3. #3
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    Re: How do you get to show off your NPCs?

    That bluebooking is a great idea that I should definitely look into if this ever comes into fruition.

    If I wasn't clear, I do know how to generally run NPCs, and based on feedback from groups in other systems, they seem to like them too, if I say so myself. It's just that, at least in my head, the way characters are built in M&M kind of encourages more combat-based and active NPCs alongside the passive supporting ones, and I wondered if there's a way to accommodate the GM's selfish whims on that without stealing the scene - at least in an annoying way, if there's a difference.

    I do like your way of giving the PCs a more direct hand in forming the supporting cast, too.

  4. #4
    OPA Belta Arthur Eld's Avatar
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    Re: How do you get to show off your NPCs?

    Make your NPCs awesome.

    Make your PCs more awesome.

    And remember that your villains are NPCs too.
    Any sound can shake the air. My voice shakes the heart!

  5. #5
    MCRN Admiral Ysariel's Avatar
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    Re: How do you get to show off your NPCs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Levander View Post
    It's just that, at least in my head, the way characters are built in M&M kind of encourages more combat-based and active NPCs alongside the passive supporting ones, and I wondered if there's a way to accommodate the GM's selfish whims on that without stealing the scene - at least in an annoying way, if there's a difference.
    As a GM who often uses allied characters in battles, has dealt with numerous missteps in the process of doing so, and even played the dreaded GMPC, I personally feel that NPC's shine more in a noncombat role.

    I find M&M's combat incredibly boring, and bloating the initiative list more will usually not help. The randomness of the d20 can sometimes also result in characters unintentionally stealing the scene. All it takes is for the PC's to get a bad spot of luck, and the villains to get the reverse the same turn, and there you have it.

    In those cases where I felt I used allied NPC's in combat to good effect, I have always used some game mechanical means to restrict their effectiveness. One is to limit the degrees of failure they can inflict: I've had a few battles where the allies couldn't inflict more than 1 degree of failure on damage, for example. So they can have all the flashy powers they like, but their role is strictly enforced to be a supporting one. They can also be deployed as minions (I really like using high-PL minions in combat -- they still pose a reasonable threat, but don't take forever to knock out).

    Alternately, NPC's can be present in combat, but only in a secondary role, for example providing various beneficial effects, operating machines, removing negative effects, and so on. These are things that players don't want to spend precious standard actions on in combat, so they will usually be valued. Team checks/attacks, Interpose, and a rousing speech (Inspire) are more examples of how NPC's can contribute to fights in significant ways without taking up too much screentime. The effectiveness of their support should be enough that players care about it, but not so overwhelming that it feels like a cheat code or makes it clear that it is the only reason the characters win.

    As a player, whenever I hear talk about showing off NPC's, I mentally brace myself because I've had so many bad experiences with it. I don't doubt it can be done well, I just feel the odds are very long.

  6. #6
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    Re: How do you get to show off your NPCs?

    One word.

    Team Up!

    Write up your cool team of NPC Heroes using the same format as your PC's, hopefully they are close to the same PL. Have a dynamic threat affect a larger scale than your PC's are used to handling, National if they are a City-based team, International if they move around their home Country some, or even Universal if they are Global Guardian types.

    Have multiple threats at multiple locations, split the NPC Hero team & the PC Hero team into two groups, make fun dynamic pairings, half of each team is your PC's playing their own characters, the other half is your PC's playing your NPC's with crib notes on personalities, rivalries and such.

    Bonus points if the NPC's you hand them are their Nemesis Villain Team and they are forced to pair up due to circumstances.

    My GM did the above to us in an old school Champions campaign and it really advanced the characterisation of our own Nemesis villains, and was fun as hell!

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