Saturday, June 16, 2012

Generating GMPCs, part 2

Back in March I wrote an article about creating GMPCs.  After finishing the character I decided that perhaps I needed some advice and my friend and player Earl offered me his opinion.  He had some good points, the big one being there were simply too many alternate personalities.  So I re-tooled the character, made her leaner and meaner.  The point here is that there is nothing wrong with having someone take a look at your character if you feel there may be some issues.  It is not always possible, especially if your friend is one of your players and you do not want to spoil the surprise, but there is a good reason why writers need editors even if your written work is just a character for a role playing game.

I was working on another GMPC because I admit that I can get a little bored playing the same characters year after year, and I think introducing new characters can help to shake the game up a bit.  A GMPC is there to fill in any power or skill gaps a team may possess, but what a GMPC can also bring to the table are new plots and adventure hooks.

Months ago I decided to push the game forward a year because I had originally had in mind a series of space adventures for some of the players.  But the closer I came to pulling the trigger the colder my feet got.  What if players with PCs on the space adventure quit, leaving other players hanging (People sometimes quit my games.  Unbelievable, I know, but it happens. :)  Oddly enough, more often than not they come back years later. I compare it to alcoholics falling off the wagon.)?  What if players grew bored?  I tried running a space based super game before and it quickly fizzled out so my concerns were well justified.  So I decided to push the game forward a year and say those things that needed to be done in space had been accomplished off camera.  And with that one year jump that gave me opportunities.  What adventures did the PCs have in that missing year?  What enemies did they make, what friends?  What are the consequences of their as-yet unknown actions?  What GMPCs could such adventures have produced?

Obviously, some of the actions that took place during that missing year need to be discussed with the players it directly affects. It would not be fair to, for example, say a character had an affair with a high priestess or they committed a heinous crime for which they are now being hunted.  That is known as "god moding" and it is not right.  Saying they were at some point incarcerated by the authorities?  Not bad, because this is something that could conceivably happen.  Saying they murdered a guard to escape?  Hell no.  The details of the incarceration have to be discussed and the GM has to be fair and the players have to realize the GM is trying to set the stage for future adventures.  I will add this one thing: what I did?  I did because after eleven years the players in question trust me not to screw them over.  If you are just starting a game with a bunch of guys who do not know you and you tell them "By the way, you guys were incarcerated in space prison some time in the past." That is not going to fly.

These unknown adventures give me the opportunity to create a GMPC, and with that GMPC comes with it a potential collection of adventures.  Why have they come to Earth?  What problems do they bring with them?  The first step has to be what sort of character is this GMPC?  Are they a lovable rogue, a fellow prisoner that aided in their escape?  A space born super hero?  Perhaps they are some sort of government functionary.  Looking at Marvel and DC Comics one can see a wide variety of characters for inspiration.  DC has The Green Lantern Corps;

The Legion of Super Heroes;

and The Omega Men;

 while Marvel has The Nova Corps;

the Guardians of The Galaxy;

 The Imperial Guard (seen in the pic below battling The Inhumans);

and Starjammers;

That wide variety does not even include all the solo characters such as DC's Adam Strange;

Heck, I could use non-comic book resources for inspiration, such as Doctor Who;

And yet, none of these character examples and archetypes really appeal to me.  Playing a Nova or Green Lantern type just feels...uninspired.  So what are my options?  Why not something outside the norm?  What about a source of inspiration from elsewhere? Going back to my modest library of game supplements, I came across across Kingdom of Champions:

Let me say first that this is an awesome supplement.  KOC contains an abridged history of the British Isles, an insight into British culture, super hero and super villain teams and solo characters as well as plot ideas.  Author Phil Masters produced a wonderful source book.  And one of the characters he created was The Consul:

Space ambassador.  Brilliant.  Finally(!) I have a character concept that does not feel like it has been done to death.  So, space ambassador, right!  Time to look at my image library, and I come across a piece of concept art by Aly Fell, a steampunk type character.  I come up with a reason why she is dressed that way; mental interrogation of the PCs and NPCs have given the aliens the wrong impression regarding how humans dress.

Only...Only if I use that image I am just copying Phil Masters a little too closely, aren't I?  I might as well give her the same power set while I am at it!  There is a difference between being inspired by source material and blatantly ripping it off.  No, better at this point to go my own way.  The GMPC is an agent of a government department that deals with primitive cultures, cultures that might have something their government wants.  It might be raw materials or art or some plant unique to their planet.  These agents are used to dealing with varied and primitive cultures, are trained to work on their own with a minimum of support. I find a couple images from my collection and combine them to give one the idea of what the character is like, someone equally at home at court or in the field:

Now comes the part concerning super powers and skills.  An agent like this should have a broad skill set because she does not know what she is going to run into.  But what about powers?  Right away I love the idea of creating a super martial artist.  I love the concept of martial arts taken to an extreme, perhaps it is due to my early love of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.  Marvel's Mantis is a great example of a super cosmic martial artist.  Ah, but then there is that little issue regarding GMPCs overshadowing PCs.  The team already has a trained martial artist in The Adjudicator and an aspiring one in Apex.  Bringing in a martial artist that makes these PCs look redundant would likely (and justifiably) annoy my players.  I look at other cosmic heroes like Quasar (I gravitate more towards Marvel cosmic characters than DC.  I just think Marvel's cosmic characters are cooler.) but his power set is quite a bit like my GMPC Valiant and that just seems boring to me.  So, a power none of the PCs possess but also ones unlike the current GMPCs.  How about...matter manipulation?  Add in the limitations that she cannot manipulate organic matter or magic and that provides her with enough limitations to prevent her from being too powerful.

Then I come up with a name and create a logo:

Why is she on Earth?  Mental interrogation of the PCs and NPCs revealed there exists on Earth an artifact, an artifact that one of her superiors desire.  So she goes to Earth, retrieves the artifact, goes home.  Simple.  Problem is, the person who knew about the artifact, Lionheart, is dead.  So it appears "Envoy" is sticking around for a while...

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