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I can't claim to be an expert on the matter, but in my personal opinion a DMPC is only good if it's either weaker than the rest of the party or filling in on a role they wouldn't otherwise have (such as healbot), and is either there entirely because the party wants it to be or has fluff ties with one or more of the PCs (like a sister or whatever). Those that force themselves to the group without the party's consent, and are stronger than them and steal the spotlight, are pretty bad. Right? Or is it that no DMPC is ever good? I don't know, this is all just an excuse to tell you a story about a DMPC anyway.

The game is AD&D, 2nd edition. We had a bunch of players, everyone created characters, the game was set, when we noticed there was a thief missing: a thief is missing in AD&D 2nd edition, and you might as well call it quits there, because you're dead. The DM shrugged and said "Okay, I'll figure out something."

So beginneth the game. We began with the second of the two most classic scenarios to start an RPG in: imprisoned. The party, along with a bunch of other unfortunate folk, had been caught by a group of gnolls and hobgoblins and other undesirables, about to be shipped into their mines for slave labor. All our weapons and other equipment had been taken away and stored elsewhere, naturally. Along with the party and a few more guys, in our particular cell there was also a single kobold - of course it was a kobold, it's like you can't have a game without one of these guys around anymore. He looked kind of bruised and beaten, but just sat there with an expressionless face (even when an occasional hobgoblin thought it's funny to kick him), wasn't much for conversation, and seemed to ignore everyone else.
Once the escape plan struck up and we managed to get out of the cell, though, he too went straight into action. He followed the party to the wagon full of equipment, and as they picked up their swords and spellbooks and other shit, he rummaged through until he found a rusty old dagger before turning around to help us against the oncoming enemy horde. While the party fighters and the dwarf with their big weapons drew most of their attention, he took the opportunity to flank-stab them, and managed to pull his own weight while still being much less useful than the PCs. And after the battle, when the rest of the captives spread out and fled into the night, the kobold followed the party, for reasons none of them could understand.

A side note: every enemy we killed was wearing a collar with a single glowing rune on it: the rune would fade away when its wearer died. The party wizard, myself, couldn't understand shit of them, especially since he didn't have an Identify spell handy.

Anyway, we headed east to avoid the main force of the villains, looking for clues of what they were all about, where they came from, and how to destroy them. The kobold would keep on hanging out with us, and we figured that since he was useful and didn't get in the way, might as well let him: he still didn't speak at all, even enough to say his name, so the fighter of the group just named him Obongo - which he didn't seem to mind much either.
Well here I was thinking I was going to bed.
It was always a bit unclear if Obongo could understand us at all. Any questions, requests, orders or whatever were met with a short blank stare, after which he always went on doing his own thing - but sometimes it was the thing we asked him to do, which made it ambiguous. Regardless, it was always beneficial to the rest of the party. He would carry our things for us, take watches at night, cook for us (surprisingly well), and of course, do all the thieving stuff. Whenever we had to break and enter, he had a lockpick ready, and I don't remember him ever failing to open a door for us. During dungeon crawls for magic artifacts and clues, he was in front to deal with traps and stuff, something he also managed pretty well. Occasionally he'd disappear somewhere, only to turn up moments later when the party was ambushed, as an ogre fell down to its belly right when it was about to smash the wizard to mush - with Obongo standing behind it, a bloody dagger in his hand. Once a plot item was taken from us when a bunch of villains were waiting for us right outside the dungeon, leaving us with little choice but to hand it over - but as soon as they left, Obongo opened his palm, and there it was, him having apparently nicked it from the gnoll's pocket when its back was turned. One steel door on our way, barred, was opened when the little kobold climbed up through a small window, disappeared into the building, and moments later the door was opened, with the few guards inside dead.
Aside from these things, he'd leave the actual plot advancement stuff to the party, always remaining quiet and behind the group as they discussed the plans of the villains and how these guys needed to die and so forth. It slowly became apparent that they were led by a powerful sorcerer, very possibly a lich, and that we would have to learn everything we could of him before we would be ready to face him.

Still, even though the group all had their personal agendas against the villains - their armies had burned our hometowns, after all - we were also getting rather more interested about this one kobold the DM had apparently pulled right out of his ass in the beginning of the game, so that there was someone to deal with traps and shit. The fact that he never spoke or did any sort of interaction whatsoever, that he had that blank expression on him at all times, and that we had no bloody clue why he was even following us, just made him all that more mysterious and intriguing.

And then, after months of adventuring, gathering experience and power, and interviewing powerful wizards and scholars about the villains, we finally thought ourselves to be ready, and headed north, towards where the invasion had begun - and that's when things started to get weird.
Go on OP...
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Keep going...
We started to find more signs of warfare: recently burned and pillaged city ruins, battlefields full of corpses being gnawed on by crows, and so forth. There were also survivors and refugees, who told stories of how the enemy force mercilessly destroyed everything in their path, burned what they couldn't loot, killed the children and others that couldn't work, and dragged the rest to their mines or as sword-fodder or other stuff like that. All the sort of shit made so that the players could hate the BBEG, and it did work.

The weird part started when one of the survivors told us a different story: he had been a guard in a castle where the general was found brutally murdered, there were an occasional bloodied corpse here and there, a maid had screamed about monsters just before she had died, and finally, when the enemy force had arrived, the gates had been opened and porticullis lowered, with men guarding them dead. The monsters had been just allowed in, and he had only barely escaped with his life. He also told us how he had heard someone mention something about a creature in the shadows, small and vaguely reptilian, from whom he had only barely fled.

Obongo was nowhere to be seen during this discussion.
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This really piqued our curiosity, so we asked any other survivors about similar tales, and found out more stuff of the sort, of a sneaky spy or whatnot showing up some days before the main army, crippling the defenders from within. An actual witness told us that yes, it was unmistakeably a kobold. This led us to finally conclude that Obongo had once worked with the enemy - though he obviously remained quiet and unreacting if we tried to ask him about the stuff. Apparently he had deserted at one point, which ended with us finding him from the same cell with us: why he had done so remained unanswered.

At this point it should be noted, for those unfamiliar with AD&D 2nd edition (the ones that do know its rules must have noticed this already), that I have pointed out him having used six of the eight thieving skills - pick pockets, open locks, find traps, move silently and hide in shadows, and climb walls - with a comfortable level of proficiency, something only a quite high-level character could do. The rest of the party had started on first level, indicating that Obongo was in fact rather more experienced and competent than the rest of the group, even if he kept it to himself.
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Weirder still, as we headed closer to the enemy strongholds, the witness reports started to change: there had been just one monster in the earlier stories - which had, chronologically, happened later: we were sort of hearing this in the backwards order - but now it changed to feature more than one, with someone witnessing a group of no less than three kobolds working in unison. Then the three was five: someone had witnessed one being killed, by a lucky guard's spear, which quickly turned to unluck when the remaining four descended upon him with daggers. Then the five was eight.

During each story, as we got further to the source, the amount of kobolds increased, but their individual competence was similarly reduced: the single kobold in the first stories we had heard, deduced to have been Obongo, had been a terrifying creature lurking in the darkness, but in the later ones, when there had been more of them around, they seemed rather less so. Eventually the number of kobolds crept into dozens, then hundreds: by this point they had been nothing but cannon fodder, the survivors telling the tale being actually pretty fond of fighting them, when compared to something like a gnoll or an ogre at least. Kind of like an inverse ninja law, or possibly Alien/Aliens thingy. Or simple survival of the fittest, with the large bunch of kobolds gradually being whittled down until only the toughest, most competent, and the most badass were left - and then continued to do so until even out of those, only one remained. That one was Obongo.

These stories were the only thing that gave him any plot relevance or spotlight whatsoever, and though it may not sound like it, they were also relatively minor in the grand scheme of things: we'd hear bits and pieces of them among much larger tales about dragon attacks and great war stories and how to deal with the lich and other shit.
OP go on with your story, I just wanted to say that my group's experience is that a DMPC built the exact same way as the PC's can be good for filling out the party, letting the forever-DM get to pretend he's a player and getting the plot moving again if it stalls (if it derails that's fine, but when the train comes to a halt you have to do something). Polite sage for somewhat off-topic.
We also had a rather riveting discussion with an ancient gold dragon, one that was unable to actually strike against the enemy because she was busy guarding her own eggs, but she did tell us some things about the enemy, and especially the lich, and how to destroy him for good: his phylactery was a great magical orb that ate souls, which he used for some purposes even the dragon didn't know, but which could not be good at all: the reason he had everyone killed that could not be of use to him was so that he could keep feeding their souls to his phylactery.

Indeed, even his own armies were not spared: remember those collars I mentioned around the beginning of the story? (If you don't remember, just scroll up, it's no big deal.) These were what was given to everyone working for him, whether in the army or in the mines, and as soon as they died, it would trigger and their soul would fly all the way to the lich's tower and join all the other damned in his orb. Naturally, trying to desert or remove the collar ended with the same results.

Obongo was alive, though, and didn't have a collar. This was puzzling. At some point we even concluded that he was an enemy spy sent to gather information about us, a high-ranking enough of a henchman that he didn't even need a collar and his soul would be spared. It made us a bit doubtful of him for a while, but if he cared about that at all, he naturally did not show any signs of it.
If it's about DMPCs, it's on topic. There's no need to sage.
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For a short time, as such, we suspected of Obongo as a spy or a traitor - but that ended in a succession of two events.

The first was when we had to rescue the king of the first nation that had fallen to the enemy forces. He had been put down to the mines along with the rest of them, where he would dig up metals that would be used to forge swords. Unfortunately, upon finding him we discovered that he, along with all the other miners, was wearing one of those collars - and we had no idea how to remove it without resulting in the poor guy's death.

Obongo stepped forward and fiddled with the thing for a while. He actually stopped at one point as if to show that this shit would be dangerous, but with the party and the king's consent, moved on. I was told later that what he did was to disarm a trap and pick a lock, both of them magical - again, I needn't tell for anyone familiar with AD&D 2nd edition, that all chances to deal with magical traps and locks are -halved-. He succeeded on both, albeit apparently with some difficulty, and the king was escorted out and back to his family and armies.

The second event that led to his absolution was when we found his home - or what was left of it.

A small warren of kobolds, enough to house perhaps a few hundred of them, but one that was now empty and dead: there was molten rock and ash everywhere, as if some great fire had burned through the tunnels, and we found many blackened skeletons, very small, huddled in one place. The bodies of adult kobolds were very few, indicating that they were dragged away to an unknown fate.

Obongo's face was as blank as always.
Even now he did not speak a single word, but we could piece up what had happened pretty well, and we all had decided that nope, this shit would not stand. (None of us had been particularly fond of kobolds before this campaign anyway.)

We continued on with a newfound determination: ever since we had heard of the orb and the collars, we had started to kill the enemy only in self-defense, but we were pretty sure their souls would be freed upon the destruction of the phylactery, anyway. After some more adventures and shenanigans, we finally made our way to the tower. Obongo disappeared over the wall, and the doors were opened us and many guards were found dead, many traps disarmed, but the kobold himself was nowhere to be seen. We could spot some small vents and the sort, enough for him to move around but not the rest of us: it's probably how he bypassed all the puzzles and riddles and other standard adventuring shit we had to put up with.

We finally reached the throne room and found the lich, as well as some of his trusted honour guard. And Obongo - lying on the ground, dead as a stone, with half the flesh burned out from his bones.
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Type faster damn you
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One standard evil speech and "DIE MONSTER" -debate later (which involved the kobolds only in passing, and were more about the rest of the world and how he would rule it and no we will stop him etc.), the battle was joined. The elite monsters were cut down or burned with magic, the blessings of the various good deities were called down, and there was a pretty great magical duel between me and the lich, the usual stuff. Still, in the end, the battle could have gone better: the monsters were killed and the lich wounded, yes, but both the fighters and the dwarf were either dead or severely injured, and no one had even touched the orb that stood in the back of the room, glowing bright blue.

Finally, only a grievously injured dwarf (half his beard had burned off!) and myself were left, along with the lich, his skull fractured and his robes torn. It was my turn, and I knew I had to make my spell count: if I chose it well, I could maybe, possibly destroy him, after which we could go for the phylactery, but it was a gamble with odds very much against me.

But finally, I made my choice. A fifth-level spell, one not very often used in our games, especially not like this in the middle of the battle: I had memorized it on a whim, picked its components from the destroyed kobold village (Obongo would've severely disapproved if he had known about it), and hadn't known if I would have needed it at all.

I cast Animate Dead.
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Now, again for those that don't know about it, Animate Dead doesn't equal Raise Dead. It doesn't bring the deceased back to life. It basically just animates a bunch of corpses in the command of the wizard that cast it.

Slowly, the undead form of a half-burned kobold rose up behind the lich, picking up the dagger he had used in life, and swaying a little bit as it begun to walk. The DM told me that even though the spell should allow me to command the dead that I created it, this one was not under my control, for reasons I could not understand: it had a mind of its own.

But it did not matter, because what it did was what I would have commanded it to do anyway. Slowly it shambled towards the orb, and before the lich could do much else than yell a dramatic and much-needed "NO!", slowly and deliberately plunged its dagger into the phylactery.

There was an explosion of bright light and a deafening sound of shattered glass, as the orb exploded all around us, pieces of crystal flying at us and all over the room. The undead forms of the lich and the kobold were disintegrated into nothing, and as the light faded enough that we could stare into its center, we saw humanoid shapes.
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There were thousands of them - no, tens of thousands, of all races, whether human or demihuman or humanoid. Most of them faded away rather quickly, a few shouted their thanks at us before they left, the ghost of the dwarf's wife had a heartfelt hug with her husband before she too went, but a few shades remained behind longer.

Four of them were PCs: the two fighters, the cleric, and the bard that had fallen in the final battle, with the DM allowing each of them to say goodbye before they would move on. The last one, the final one to step forward at us even as all the others had gone to the afterlife, was Obongo.

He looked directly at my wizard. For the first time, I saw his blank expression fade away into a happy smile, and likewise, for the first time, I saw him open his mouth and heard him speak, even if just three words:

"Jirik thanks you."

And then he was gone too, leaving behind two living and many, many dead. The lich was destroyed, the invasion was stopped, and there was rebuilding to be done. All in all it was rather bittersweet, but there was a strange warm feeling in my heart, and I knew I would not shortly forget this.

The DM didn't often use a DMPC, and he admitted to us later that he had basically improvised most of this stuff when the party, inexplicably to him, had ended up curious about the little kobold and what his deal was. I think he managed it fairly well, all considered - indeed, when I look back, the rest of the adventure was rather standard and with its fair share of clich├ęs, which I guess may be why I have forgotten many details about it, but this one DMPC I will remember.

I played a kobold named Jirik some years later.
The feels

Baaaaaawww. The feels are so huge I don't even..
I'm sorry OP, it's a good story, but throughout the entire thing I imagined Obongo as this small black kid with huge red lips.
Let me be in the minority and say Meh.

Sure the story of the campaign sounds nice, and was well-written, but from a DMPC standpoint, it has all the problems people usually rant about.

>higher level than the party
>miraculously succeeds at everything as if dice aren't being rolled
>magically comes and goes as he pleases. even if the DM takes time to introduce "vents" and the like.
>fills every hole the party has and repeatedly saves their asses, which stunts gameplay by never taking the players out of their comfort zone.

the only thing worse would have been if obongo actually spoke and the PCs just repeatedly asked him for advice on what to do next.
At least it'd seem he allowed the party to do their thing and didn't get much on their way in the fights, or push them on to railroading tracks and take over the entire plot. So he could certainly have been worse.
But it didn't look like the party was even interested in trying any of that thieving stuff. Else they would be thieves.

Plus how is he repeatedly saving their asses? I'm assuming there were more to this game than traps and locks.

Basically, the point of this DMPC was to not cause play to grind to a screeching halt every time there was something thief related. Ergo, it was made in order to maximize fun.
Could've just left the thief stuff out entirely, then, no?

At the end of the day, all the matters is if the party had fun, and it looks like the party was OK with Obongo.

All I'm saying is that you could put that same Obongo into another group of players and get all sorts of "DM IS TAKING OVER OUR GAEM WITH HIS GAY ASS OP KOBOLD DMPC"
But it's a bit weird if nobody locks their stuff, isn't it?
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Saved. As a DM stories like this are inspiring. It's good to know DMPC's can be done right.
DMPCs aren't inherently bad. But you have to, have to, have to think of them as supporting characters. The PC's must be the stars of the show. As long as you never lose sight that the PC's are the main characters, the protaganists, the heroes of the story - you're fine.

Starwars: Luke, Han and Leia are PC's. It's okay to have Chewy or Obi Wan as DMPCs (obi is higher level, but dies quickly to show how powerful the BBEG is). R2D2 is kind of pushing it as a DMPC, he solves too many problems for the group and always seems to have the answer for every situation up his sleeve. (Lol now he has rocket feets) But the players also use him for some fun plans (the lightsaber toss in Jedi).

Lord of the Rings: Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli are the PCs. Boromir was a good DMPC, even though he was a little bit of a mary sue being like a quasi-prince and stuff, he dies early to show how powerful the ring's temptation is so it's okay. Gandalf is kind of a bad DMPC, he saves the players asses a few too many times and always shows up out of no where and then mysteriously disapears. Gollum is a sweet fucking DMPC for the Frodo/Sam sidequest game that they play when Aragorn's player is off with his girlfriend and can't show up.

Firefly: Mal, Zoey and Jayne are the PCs. Everyone else on the ship is a great DMPC - interesting, helpful, but reliant on the big ass heroes to keep them safe. Except of course for River, who is a terrible DMPC fucking superman character.

So anyway Supporting Characters can be great! As long as the DM doesn't lose sight that the OTHER PLAYERS are the stars of the show it should be fine.
Really, as was shown, even this character could have been a horrible faggot DMPC if dealt with badly or with the wrong group. So all in all, it doesn't really matter what the character does or how competent it is while doing it, but rather how much the party is willing to tolerate and how the DM deals with it all.
I'd argue in both Star Wars and LotR examples, all the "DMPCs" were actually PCs as well.
I would buy the R2D2 / C3P0 combo as one dudes creative PC. ("My dude can't talk, but I have his gay buddy follow us around to translate")

But the Obi-Wan and Gandalf players woulda been bored out of their minds, sitting out huge portions of the game. Old man mentor who dies pretty early on and then comes and goes to give information and advance the plot? DMPC material right there.
Ugh, what a stupid way to use your action. If you're capable of casting 5th level spells you're bound to have a better attack bonus than zombies or skeletons, which Animate Dead creates. You should've attacked the liche's phylactery yourself instead of wasting your 5th level slot on summoning some lame kobold zombie.
Fucking noobs.
As a DM, I used a DMPC once. I did this because one of the player characters had a brother that he wanted to keep around. So the brother became a DMPC, that actually even managed to be useful from time to time, but he didn't become plot-critical or whatever.

Admittedly, your story is better.

I'd also like to argue that River was an okay NPC/possible plot hook, but then the DM's Buffy-obsessed girlfriend wanted to play her in the last few sessions, so she suddenly went completely off the rails into a THAT GUY demi-PC.
Obviously these are all just characters in a story. I'm trying to get people to think about how a supporting character can be a fine addition and isn't inherently a bad, soul crushing THAT DM thing.
Why does it matter? It ended the battle in a victory just fine and resulted in a better story.
"Okay guys due to the huge demand we'll do one last, marathon game before we retire... but my girlfriend, I mean "fiance" now, well she says that she has to play as River again or it's not happening..."
Also archived on suptg.
Am I the only one that was just like "Oh man, kobolds again..."?

Maybe the DM could've gone with a goblin this time around. Goblins don't get enough love. Just SAD.
That honestly isn't a DMPC done very well: it's just that the party took it down pretty good for some reason.

Cool story, though.
>Am I the only one that was just like "Oh man, kobolds again..."?
No, no you are not. It doesnt help that kobolds always end up as massive faggots that we are supposed to get "the feels" for solely based on the fact that they're kobolds
I disagree. I don't tend to give kobolds feels because they're actually kind of badass and would hate me for patronizing them.

I mean, they're not very big or strong or clever, but the bastards just don't give up.
Really, I think the biggest, most important consideration with a DMPC is whether the party is okay with what the character is doing for/to the game.

Not gonna go full-on storytime here, but in the game I'm DMing (Pathfinder, small group, 3 players), I've been using a half-giant ranger with the trapper archetype for a dmpc, and the party seems to love him. He even does definitely do the lion's share of the damage in combat (the rest of the party is a witch, a bard, and a summoner, and being low level, I figured a dedicated melee guy who could also disarm traps and do very basic level rogue stuff would be a good add-in)
I definitely don't take any shortcuts though, he's almost died several times now (session before last he hit -9 in one fight). Outside of combat he's fairly quiet, though occasionally when all of my players are failing their IRL common sense rolls he'll point out something humorously obvious or the like. In some groups he might not fly, but my players have been genuinely worried in the times when he's gotten close to dying, so I guess what I'm saying is, as long as the players want the dmpc around and it's not being forced down their throats, I personally think things are fine.

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