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The Jake
Hi all

I'm hitting a problem at my table and I'm curious to know how others have addressed this.

We typically have up to 6 players at my table, the PC composition as follows:

1) Covert Ops Agent/Face (drake mystic adept)
2) Spy (human close quarters combat specialist with some stealth/face/intimidate ability)
3) Hermetic Mage (human bookworm/face)
4) AI Hacker
5) Troll Merc/Arms Dealer/Gunner
6) Eagle shapeshifter shaman

For a variety of reasons, players of 4,5,6 are becoming infrequent enough to be a problem. The PCs have taken to hiring NPCs for odd jobs when they know a set of skills is needed. The way I design NPCs is that they are all at varying levels of skill but no NPC can be considered "perfect".

E.g. the best ingame hacker they know of is almost infallable however he charges an insane amount of cash. So they need to know well in advance the scope of the job or he ups the fee. Oh, and he triples the fee if the job involves work outside of business hours (for reasons the PCs do not know/understand) and refuses to do jobs that require an onsite presence.

Now, essentially the PCs are finding themselves in situation where they need additional skills and lack the players for the characters. Now I'm looking at getting additional players for my group but the problem is that will take time. One of my players (probably the most experienced one) has volunteered to play two characters. If I was ever going to let a player do this, it would be this player, however he does such a fantastic job playing his ONE character I'm loathe to put him in a situation where he has to split his time and attention this way.

The other is I control these NPCs (effectively GM PCs) on a more long term basis until we plug these gaps.

I'm really on split opinion on this. At present I have two NPCs they have used heavily that I am in the process of finalisation (a hacker and a smuggler separately). I'm just wondering how other GMs have handled this situation.

Thanks in advance,

- J.

Generally speaking playing multiply characters rarely turns out well from my experience. As for the GM playing a PC it depends on the skill of the GM.

If I was in your shoes I would plan your runs to not need the rolls your infrequent players fill, and/or incorporate new contacts to fill in for players who can not make it.
A GM-PC can be a bad thing. You don't want to steal the show, and that's what PCs are for. The are the show.

On the other hand, an NPC who runs the shadows along with the PCs can be a great thing. Connection with NPCs creates involvement, investment, and verisimilitude. They care about, or at least know about and wonder about, that hacker. If someone else brings up the hacker in conversation, you've just tied your world together a bit. Do that with a full cast and you're set.

So the key can be making the NPCs unlikely to take initiative, forcing the players to remain the directors and problem-solvers, and making the NPCs not do anything that takes too long. If the NPC is the only hacker, don't roll much and don't waste much time on it. You decide what the hacker can and can't accomplish by fiat and tell the party the results. The same goes with just about anything. And to whatever extent possible, you should probably keep the NPCs out of combat, because any time a PC isn't acting is boring time. Cowardice, self-preservation, or specialized non-combat skills will do well. So will having the NPC engage separate targets and handwaving the results.

TLDR summary: Long-term, accompanying NPCs are good, but be sure to treat them like NPCs, not PCs.
Solution: have someone spend some karma on the basic hacking skills, and some nuyen
on the decent programs. Only thing I see on that list that cannot be done through a
Fixer or one of the existing party members is hacking..and that is just a copuple runs worth
of XP, and some nuyen to fix.
Reducing the scope of the runs to accommodate your remaining players is a good idea - if they no longer have a heavy weapons expert, it makes sense that they'd stop advertising this, and people would stop offering them jobs that required one. Also, for those times where working with a NPC is unavoidable, you can still keep them mostly off-screen, or at least off the spotlight. Let's say a hacker is absolutely required for a certain run, because he needs to hack a certain door open at a crucial time. Mr. Johnson knows this, and hires a NPC hacker that will open the door remotely. No need to roll - as long as the PCs manage to get to the door safely, it opens. If they don't, it doesn't really matter whether the hacker succeeded or not. Or if the hacker needs to go in with the PCs, say, to hack an offline server, he turns out not to be so hot at physical tasks, so the actual goal of the run is to get this guy in and out safely.

Basically, it's possible to have a game with NPCs following along the party, as long as their skills don't overlap too much with the PC's skills, and as long as the PCs are kept firmly in the spotlight.
I ran a long-term D&D campaign where each of the 2 players had 2 PCs and things worked out brilliantly. Each PC had their own distinct personality. A couple of times, PCs of the same player got in to an argument. It was awesome. That said, not every player can handle the load; caveat emptor, so to speak. As for GM PCs, no no no. Same goes for GM NPCs in the party, though that is always a little more fuzzy. If the NPC is mostly doing combat stuff, it's not too bad, but if they end up carrying the bulk of the load for the party, it's time to have the PCs pic up the slack.

That said, I know of some GMs who can do the PC-as-NPC thing quite well, too.

Bira's post neatly sums up the situation smile.gif
I only have three players in my home game: an elven weapon specialist, an ork gunslinger adept, and an ork hacker.

Over the course of the game they've had to diversify to be able to get all the jobs done that they've wanted to. The hacker has ended up doubling as a face and has built up a good repertoire of social skills and contacts. The weapon spec is just about to get some real cyberware other than just her cyber hand with built in recoil since she's been realizing that she's not tough enough to take a real good hit. And the adept is starting to learn more about stealth and infiltration since he's been the one to take point on missions where they felt that was important.

When I started running this team I made runs with little magic, infiltration, or social encounters and went heavy on the hacking and shooting. Which they loved, but over time they've thought of better ways of accomplishing goals and, all on their own, have started to fill in those gaps.

Just make runs for the PC's that you have, they'll take care of the rest and if they really need something they'll hire out for it. Don't make any more work for them or yourself than you have to Omae.
I have no problems with a GM-PC as long as the GM is responsible enough to keep the PC in the background and not cheat in his or her own PC's favor.

Multiple characters are not a good idea.

NPCs can easily cover some areas, like hacking. One techy hacker NPC is all the first three need to cover their bases.

Johnny Hammersticks
We have 3 regular players as well, Ork pilot/rigger, elf technomancer, human hedge magician

As the GM, it is all about tailoring the adventure to their abilities. They can do a lot.
I agree with the fact that a player running a multiple npc is taking away from his experience playing the one character.
I am also a supporter of GMpc's, as they can add color to the game(from backstabbing moles from another fixer to comic relief)
Also, if the group is smaller, like others have said, tailor the jobs to the smaller team,
its reasonable that their fixer, whatever would take this into account and only throw them a line on jobs their modified team
could accomplish.
Sometimes it fun to see the PC's get desperate for jobs so they can rub off a quicky job to get money to pay for help
on a larger scale job.
The Jake
QUOTE (Cardul @ Jan 25 2010, 12:46 PM) *
Solution: have someone spend some karma on the basic hacking skills, and some nuyen
on the decent programs. Only thing I see on that list that cannot be done through a
Fixer or one of the existing party members is hacking..and that is just a copuple runs worth
of XP, and some nuyen to fix.

One step ahead: the spy has MBW2 so he's getting pirated skillsofts from the AI to autoupdate IIRC - Hacking 4 and Computer 4 and they're already working on upgrading the commlink. But it is a poor substitute.

If I play an NPC/PC, then I make sure they usually don't volunteer information or assist overly unless it is blatantly obvious to them or otherwise they are asked by the PCs.

Rewriting the runs is too difficult. I'm using pre-generated content at present (atm Ghost Cartels) because I really struggle with running anything that requires onerous prep time (I'm a parent, work 40 hrs and about to start a Masters degree). If I have to re-write anything, forget it - it won't work. Any solution that requiers advanced prep time on my behalf won't work. I'd be forced to cancel running the campaign. I've put the offer out for two other SR4 players I know of to see if they want to join my group (they're from a different group) so I'll see how that goes. Failing that I'll put an add up in the GM/Player Registry.

Thanks for the advice y'all. Good to know I'm on the right track at least.

- J.
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