GMPC

"This is a load of bullshit. You don't know the first thing about Call of Cthulhu and you sure as Hell have no idea how to run a role-playing game if you think our idea of a good time is being your pet character's FUCKING ENTOURAGE!"
Al Bruno III, "Achy Breaky Mythos," from the Binder of Shame.

Sometimes, a Game Master doesn't have enough players to run a decent game. Or else, he just wants to have his cake and eat it too. Or perhaps the campaign needs a Mr. Exposition and the rest of the party doesn't fit the bill. Either way, he starts out an important NPC to travel with the party and fill any missing roles no one else wants to play. It's almost like the GM has a Player Character of his own, thus this concept has come to be known as the GMPC.

Admittedly, this kind of character can be done well — adding flavor to the campaign and immersing the players in the world the Game Master has set out to create. This kind of GMPC often serves as a Non-Action Guy in order to avoid stealing the spotlight from the players, or at least some form of White Mage (passive GMPCs often end up in the 'healing' role).

However, it's all too easy to screw up the GMPC, especially since the Game Master also controls the game world and plot. Thus, the GMPC has a tendency to turn into a plot device to keep the players on track, stopping them from going Off the Rails. Even worse, the GM can take too much of a liking to his PC, and the character slowly but surely turns into a Mary Sue: defeating all the enemies singlehandedly, doing all the cool stuff, and gradually reducing the players to supporting roles. He might also set up the adventure to suit his character, without considering the others.

This kind of GMPC quickly earns the ire of the players, since what's the point of even playing the game if all the DM's going to do is play with himself? They came to the gaming table to play as fantastic characters, crack some heads, and have fun; not sit and watch some Marty Stu kick werewolves through buses (and in the case of the Munchkin, he wants to be the one kicking the werewolves through buses). This may lead them to try to kill the offending character, which inevitably fails because of countermeasures including unstealable Rings of Invincibility and hostile allies getting struck by 10d100 lightning bolts. The Game Master may quickly find himself without a game if he doesn't get a clue.

An equally problematic variant is the GMPC who is obnoxious, absolutely useless or worse. These characters exist mainly to cause trouble for the players through their sheer incompetence, yet they are too pivotal to the plot and/or the fate of the world for the PCs to leave them to their justly deserved fate. This has all the problems of an Escort Mission in a video game, compounded by the fact that the Dungeon Master is doing it intentionally, rather than because of the inferior AI of a game.

It should be noted that any campaign setting that contains significant canon NPCs (such as the Forgotten Realms) may fall victim to this if the GM insists on having them travel with the party. Just as bad is the habit of using them as a Deus ex Machina to bail out the party when they screw up, especially if you set up the PCs to fail on purpose.

Some games, on the other hand, require the Game Master to have a GMPC, usually a Non-Action Guy with some kind of authority over the Player Characters.

There is a middle ground, a GMPC who behaves pretty much the same as most player characters, but you don't seem to hear much about them. Presumably because they don't make as exciting stories. A GMPC may be employed temporarily to stop new players from killing themselves before they've learned. It can also occur legitimately in a campaign where the role of GM rotates among the players.

(It should be noted though, in general, a GMPC in any game isn't going to solve any issues, come up with ideas, or take charge of any plot important situation the GM has set up for the player to do (unless he's not a very good GM prone to Rail Roading). Normally, this is fine when they're just an equal to you mook; this can get comical and bizarre if the GMPC is supposed to be your superior and/or a wizened, experienced character and the GM needs them to be incompetent, silent, or magically not available during crucial moments meant to be handled by the PC.)

Not to be confused with Gnome Music Player Client.

Examples of Tabletop Games requiring GMPCs:

  • Bliss Stage's Authority Figure is one of these. Notable as one of the possible results of getting to 108 points of Bliss is for a Pilot to mutiny and take over La Résistance: If this happens, that pilot's player must become the new GM!
  • My Life with Master in a nutshell: The PC's in this game are the Igors to the Game Master's Dr. Frankenstein GMPC.
  • Maid RPG is a sendup of the entire Meido trope in which the GMPC "Master" can have a powerful artifact known as the Desu Note. ...Do I really need to say it? The players' effectiveness depends on seeking out (or contending for) the Master's approval. On the other hand, the way the rules are set up, Masters tend to be pretty helpless in everyday situations (for the game's definition of "everyday"), and players usually have an explicit power to randomly derail plots they don't like, so it balances out: even the author's self-insert GMPC gets accidentally killed by his maids. Twice.
  • The Wild Card in Meddling Kids, a table-top game for kids based very loosely on mystery shows of the Scooby-Doo kind.
  • Ninja Burger has the dispatcher, a Non-Action Guy. His job is to watch the PCs on closed circuit camera and basically provide them with hints and assistance as needed.
  • Not a requirement, but Don't Rest Your Head has an optional rule where there is no assigned GM, and whoever gets the best roll in a scene gets to control the story, essentially making them the owner of a GMPC for a short time. You would expect this to cause problems, but considering the crowd that game draws in, it actually makes things quite interesting.
  • The Ringworld RPG requires players whose characters mutate into protectors to give up control of the character to the GM. Protectors have superhuman strength and intelligence, but no free will, as they are ruthlessly devoted to ensuring the survival of their bloodline or species.
  • Paranoia often saddles the players with an 'escort' that is this trope Played for Laughs. The opportunity to kill an obnoxiously perfect and completely unwanted NPC is one of the few things that will cause Paranoia characters to cooperate.

Non-Tabletop Game Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

     Comic Strips  

     Fanfiction  

  • Cait Sith, in Off The Line, is not only an NPC, but the game's admin, head designer and avatar of the game's creator. He also adds and changes things as long as he helping the player or if it amuses him.
  • In Ponies and Dragons, Doctor Whooves had one (a Time Lord, too) when he ran the game. After Vinyl Scratch stabbed the character to death, shoved the body into a magic bag, and dumped it down a well, he took the hint and abdicated the GM seat. Vinyl still occasionally gives him grief for it, though.

     Film  

  • Sir Osric in The Gamers: Dorkness Rising is a Paladin and therefore honour-bound to curb the PCs' amoral-to-homicidal impulses, which causes tension in the game and resentment among the players. Ultimately a Reconstruction as the GM learns to have more faith in his players, while the players become more invested in the story and slightly less prone to hijinks. Ultimately, one player character uses her divinely-granted wish to bring Osric back from the dead — a major milestone in roleplaying for the group.

     Literature  

     Video Games  

  • In the D&D-themed Borderlands 2 DLC Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, White Knight Roland serves this role, often appearing in the story just because Tina says so. The other players aren't very happy about this, partly because he's more or less a plot device and because he's a clear sign that Tina is in denial of the real Roland's death. However, the ending shows that his character is meant to be a tribute to Roland, ultimately having a better fate than his ignoble death at the hands of Handsome Jack.

     Webcomics  

  • DM of the Rings is a Lord of the Rings-based Campaign Comic where a put-upon, railroading DM uses Gandalf the Grey as a DMPC. Antics include stealing the spotlight from the PCs with long-winded speeches and contrived heroics, trying with intermittent success to prevent said PCs from going Off the Rails, and rising from death with game-breaking new superpowers after the PCs abandoned him to a boss fight they didn't want to bother with.
  • The Noob has the MMORPG version, in which the Jerkass head developer plays a character. And cheats to try and win contests.
  • Darths & Droids is a Star Wars Campaign Comic that uses this trope when the the regular GM can't make it to the session: Pete takes over as GM while still playing his PC R2-D2. During the battle, he decides R2-D2 has rocket thrusters, which in the movie, pretty much allows Artoo to save the day.
  • In One Piece: Grand Line 3.5, it's revealed near the end of the Syrup Village arc that the GM designed one back when the group consisted of just Luke and Cory. Their old GM DM is surprised when she learns this, as she knows Cory especially hates GMPCs. He later end up having Sanji as a GMPC, but subvert it as of now, since Luke have been the one controlling Sanji in battle.
  • Spoofed in this Penny Arcade comic, where Gabe is shown indulging in this during a Star Wars RPG.

     Web Original  

  • The Global Guardians PBEM Universe played with this. While there were loads of GMPCs, they were always characters being run in another GMs campaign.
  • While not quite a fit in this section, the MSF High Forum has a few of these. Mitchell, current head GM, is known for trying to make sure his stay out of the fight, especially at climaxes. For instance, Michelle was busy fighting her evil twin in an ultimately irrelevant battle (And lost), and includes one in his planned Mahou Galaxy adventure, and Legion-based online game.
  • Fallout Is Dragons has a number of GMPCs, two of which are actually party members. They are actually about equal to the player characters and somewhat adored by the players themselves, although only Aurelia has actual stats.
  • Mostly averted in Critical Role, but DM Matthew Mercer will occasionally control an allied NPC (or an absent player character) in certain battles if the story works out that way. Matt also has an infamous story about why he became a Dungeon Master, and it mostly boils down to his previous DM abusing his GMPC's privileges.

Alternative Title(s): DMPC

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GMPC