Seeing as I’ve already covered the basic elements of being a Player and a Game Master, there is really no need to revisit the individual aspects of either role. However, for those individuals that choose to embrace both roles simultaneously, and become what I call a Hybrid, it must be known that to do so is to walk the razor’s edge between epic success and absolute disaster!!! Ok, I’m being a little dramatic, but choosing to become a Hybrid can be extremely challenging but equally rewarding as well.
Generally, we all begin as Players and eventually find ourselves delving into the role of the Game Master. For some, it becomes a permanent mantle that is worn within the gaming group and can sometimes feel more like a job than a pathway to entertainment and escapism. For those of us seeking the best of both worlds, creating a GMPC is the way to go. Simultaneously running a game AND a Player Character within that game allows the GM to feel that, to an extent, they too have an interactive, rather than purely narrative, role in the story unfolding around the gaming table.
- Flexibility – The ability of a GMPC can be limiting in terms of the Player role being fulfilled. As the GM knows the answer to all the puzzles, what sort of encounters lay behind which door, and the ultimate story-arc of the session, the GMPC is relegated to a support role in terms of proactive adventuring. The flip side is that when the chips are down and the Players are stuck, the GMPC serves as a perfect deus ex machina, able to help resolve the issue and move the plot forward, hopefully in character. While this may not be ideal for the sake of the GM’s storytelling, it keeps the game moving.
- Direction – If utilized correctly, the GMPC can help steer the PCs in the direction needed if they get too far off course. This is best done with subtlety and in character and is more successful than attempting the same with standard NPCs, whom Players generally treat as tools to be cast aside once used. It’s only railroading if the Players realize it!
- Equality – The GM gets to enjoy being a Player again. While they have the task of creating, organizing and running the game, the GMPC is a vehicle in which they can interact with the group on a Player to Player level, which is something we can all appreciate.
- Focus – If a GM is the type of writer that REALLY enjoys details, being a Hybrid can serve to bog down the creative process. Trying to create a gaming world and the story while seeking to develop and character with back-story can split focus and result in either the game, the character or both suffering. Being a GM is a balancing act, and if too much time is being spent on developing a single PC, the responsibility to the group is being neglected. It’s okay to have your cake and eat it too, but greed will get you nowhere.
- Temptation – You’re the GM. You’re the boss. You run the game world and establish the house rules, so why shouldn’t you be able to boost your stats, trick out your equipment and bend the rules to your liking? Because it’s not fair to your players. If you want your GMPC to be the toughest adventurer out there, you better relegate them to NPC status or else your Players are going to revolt. As was stated before, the role of the GMPC is one of support. If the GMPC is the best at everything, the Players are going to be less willing (and able!) to contribute while the GM has one-sided encounters with themselves.
Protip #4 – The game is for the Players first and the GM second. If your GMPC waltzes into every battle like Jack Bauer and every verbal encounter with the wits of George Clooney and Brad Pitt from the Ocean’s 11-13 movies, your reign as GM will end more brutally than the fall of Tsarist Russia. Let the Players be the heroes and bask in the glory, with the GMPC on the sideline. It makes totally screwing over the PCs that much more fun!
“I know the world isn’t fair, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?” – Bill Waterson