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 Have the "uber" NPCs ever worried you?
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Abarys
Acolyte

6 Posts

Posted - 08 Dec 2007 :  19:40:49  Show Profile  Visit Abarys's Homepage Send Abarys a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The one problem I have run into is that the Chosen and their ilk present a difficulty to the DM: If, as eventually happens in a level-based game, you reach a point where your PCs are challenged only by the truly cataclysmic, it sometimes feels like you have to explain why the Chosen haven't gotten involved. Certain stories are more difficult to carry off due to massive NPCs lurking in the background, whose stated purpose is to head off the kinds of disaster you want your PCs to face.

Overall, though, that's a minor gripe that only raises its head among players unwilling to suspend disbelief and buy into the idea that they are the ones who need to save the world this time.

Knowledge hoarded is knowledge wasted
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KnightErrantJR
Great Reader

USA
5402 Posts

Posted - 09 Dec 2007 :  00:12:10  Show Profile  Visit KnightErrantJR's Homepage Send KnightErrantJR a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Abarys

The one problem I have run into is that the Chosen and their ilk present a difficulty to the DM: If, as eventually happens in a level-based game, you reach a point where your PCs are challenged only by the truly cataclysmic, it sometimes feels like you have to explain why the Chosen haven't gotten involved. Certain stories are more difficult to carry off due to massive NPCs lurking in the background, whose stated purpose is to head off the kinds of disaster you want your PCs to face.




I think that with the advent of 3rd edition, we lost some of the "feel" of 2nd edition, which, in relation to the Chosen and similar characters, reminded me of Doctor Strange from Marvel and his position as the Sorcerer Supreme.

In other words, in 3rd edition, we get the feeling that the only "major" forces that could threaten Toril are "known quantity" major organizations . . . the Zhents, the Red Wizards, the Shadovar, the Cult of the Dragon, the churches of various gods and their patrons.

In 2nd edition I got much more of a feel that weird creatures from alternate dimensions, alien sorcerers, and extraplanar things poked their noses into Toril, and these are the main threats that the Chosen deal with. Sure, the Chosen keep an eye on things in Toril, and they point the PCs towards the Zhents and the Red Wizards when they need to, but they are busy with all sorts of threats that are never really recorded.

Elminster runs into sorcerer Hz'krez'itthesk, an alien creature from another prime material that has an artifact that converts anyone infected with its magical disease into raw mystic power, but the artifact will only function if part of it that is hidden on Toril is restored. El has that piece, learns from his sources out in Sigil or some other extraplanar metropolis that Hz'krez'ithesk is looking for it, and he goes off to deal with the threat, while pointing the PCs toward Manshoons latest plot before he leaves (the PCs understand who Manshoon is and why he is dangerous, so it makes more sense to point them in the direction of something they understand, rather than fill them in on all of the planar intrigue).

Khelben hears of a several beholder nations that are similar enough in appearance that they have somehow come to a consensus about the rights of one another to exist, and they are planning on banding together to enslave the nearest world with a large population. Khelben goes off to talk with the Elven Imperial Navy ambassador at the Rock of Bral about this threat and how to deal with it, but before he leaves, he sends some of his Moonstar operatives to nudge the PCs towards the plans of some Calishite agents ready to start trouble in Waterdeep, since the PCs are in Waterdeep and will understand the threat.

I always got the feeling in 2nd edition that these things were assumed. The above would be an average day for Khelben or Elminster, and thus, you don't have to explain why they aren't around, because most of the time when they are around, its when they are resting from between days like these, and taking some time out to manipulate other players into acting while they are busy with the "bigger picture."

In other words, "there is always a bigger fish." The DM really shouldn't have to explain every single potential threat to the entire world of Toril just to justify why some high level NPC shows up to save the day.

This isn't directed at you Abarys, its just that I feel like somehow 3rd edition products, while saying the emphasis should be on the PCs and, at least initially, downplaying the established NPCs, missed the point by disconnecting Toril from outside threats and constantly portraying all threats to Faerun as originating in Toril.

"Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder."--Saint Thomas Aquinas

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BARDOBARBAROS
Senior Scribe

Greece
579 Posts

Posted - 09 Dec 2007 :  00:14:37  Show Profile  Visit BARDOBARBAROS's Homepage Send BARDOBARBAROS a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Not at all...

BARDOBARBAROS DOES NOT KILL.
HE DECAPITATES!!!


"The city changes, but the fools within it remain always the same" (Edwin Odesseiron- Baldur's gate 2)
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Aravine
Senior Scribe

USA
608 Posts

Posted - 21 Dec 2007 :  17:55:29  Show Profile  Visit Aravine's Homepage Send Aravine a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Have they worried me? me? the character that killed Ao, or the one that destroyed the nine hells and the infinate layers of the abyss? in either case, no. now did they influence me as a player?...no. am I intimedateded by them, no. I only ran into one "uber" NPC, and that was in the galaxy far, far away. I was caught by Boba Fett. he influenced that character...

The brave don't live forever,the cautious don't live at all
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Reefy
Senior Scribe

United Kingdom
892 Posts

Posted - 22 Dec 2007 :  00:47:15  Show Profile  Visit Reefy's Homepage  Click to see Reefy's MSN Messenger address Send Reefy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
They never bothered me, I loved having them there as they made up the Realms. They influenced me, but only in so far as they were there to help me create my own stories.

Life is either daring adventure or nothing.
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Brimstone
Great Reader

USA
3031 Posts

Posted - 08 Nov 2008 :  20:10:49  Show Profile Send Brimstone a Private Message  Reply with Quote
-I voted no. I tend to use area's that are not "Uber NPC" dominated.


BRIMSTONE

"These things also I have observed: that knowledge of our world is
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then, well, the arts of reading, writing, and listening true, and they
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Ardashir
Senior Scribe

USA
544 Posts

Posted - 14 Nov 2008 :  16:32:15  Show Profile  Visit Ardashir's Homepage Send Ardashir a Private Message  Reply with Quote
They never bothered me, and I liked some of them.

If you don't like a character then don't use them. I fail to see why some people (not anyone here, mind) seemingly just can't understand that.
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sfdragon
Great Reader

2219 Posts

Posted - 14 Nov 2008 :  22:04:39  Show Profile Send sfdragon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
thats a most definitely not, they never bugged me.
heck novel characters should not even be used in a campaign for anything other than a quick cameo, not a oh the pcs failed and met a tpk, and Elminster and the symbul won the da

why is being a wizard like being a drow? both are likely to find a dagger in the back from a rival or one looking to further his own goals, fame and power


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Ionik Knight
Learned Scribe

USA
222 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2008 :  14:42:14  Show Profile  Visit Ionik Knight's Homepage Send Ionik Knight a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hmm, they are good background material and fun to read about. As to their actually appearing in any campaign I've played or ran...almost never. Way back in first edition our party visited Elminster the Sage for info on an extraplanar problem. At that time we were unaware of him being an uber wizard, just THE uber sage. I've also met Volo; otherwise these guys only appear in rumor and fireside tales. Afterall, why would El or the rest be interested in the average party?

Ionik Knight

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The Sage
Procrastinator Most High
Moderator

Australia
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Posted - 15 Dec 2008 :  14:59:23  Show Profile  Send The Sage an AOL message  Click to see The Sage's MSN Messenger address  Send The Sage a Yahoo! Message Send The Sage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ionik Knight

Afterall, why would El or the rest be interested in the average party?
Indeed. Canon material says he's a retired sage whose behind-the-scenes machinations aren't known except as rumours to sages and highly placed people, who spends much of his time researching other planes and by default isn't in if PCs try to find him.

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Nerfed2Hell
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USA
387 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2008 :  20:51:16  Show Profile  Visit Nerfed2Hell's Homepage Send Nerfed2Hell a Private Message  Reply with Quote
They've never had a negative impact on my DMing or playstyle in the Realms, nor have they ever intimidated me from the perspective of either player or DM. They are merely tools to use (as a DM), not some driving force that steers the game for me.

I think the people that do worry are those without real imagination... they either can't see how to use those NPCs constructively and/or just assume that the novels they've read take precedence of PC adventures simply because they're the high level characters in a Realms without room for players to rival them.

Some people are like a slinky... not good for much, but when you push them down the stairs, it makes you smile.
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Ashe Ravenheart
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3080 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2008 :  21:22:39  Show Profile Send Ashe Ravenheart a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm just waiting for WotC to do the same thing to Star Wars and kill off the big characters like Chewbacca.

... oh wait.

I actually DO know everything. I just have a very poor index of my knowledge.

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Sian
Senior Scribe

Denmark
596 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2008 :  22:16:42  Show Profile  Visit Sian's Homepage  Click to see Sian's MSN Messenger address Send Sian a Private Message  Reply with Quote
been annoyed by a few of them (specially Drizzt and his PCclones) but intimidated by them, no

what happened to the queen? she's much more hysterical than usual
She's a women, it happens once a month
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The Sage
Procrastinator Most High
Moderator

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Posted - 15 Dec 2008 :  23:23:21  Show Profile  Send The Sage an AOL message  Click to see The Sage's MSN Messenger address  Send The Sage a Yahoo! Message Send The Sage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ashe Ravenheart

I'm just waiting for WotC to do the same thing to Star Wars and kill off the big characters like Chewbacca.

... oh wait.

Silly Ashe. That's what the novels are for!

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CorellonsDevout
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USA
2276 Posts

Posted - 24 Nov 2012 :  20:26:25  Show Profile  Send CorellonsDevout an AOL message Send CorellonsDevout a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't play D&D, but I read the novels, and I'm one of those people who doesn't have to relate to a character to enjoy them (that's why I like stories about the gods). I certainly can't relate to uber characters, but they're still awesome! I like the suave, cool types. They inspire good stories!

Sweet water and light laughter
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Alystra Illianniis
Great Reader

USA
3747 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2012 :  01:35:24  Show Profile  Click to see Alystra Illianniis's MSN Messenger address Send Alystra Illianniis a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've never actually played IN the Realms, though I've had one or two of the "uber" NPC's make guest appearances in my own HB world. (Just visiting, mind...) Have they ever been a problem? No. Have they influeinced me? Partially, as I use some of them for inspiration for adventures or for NPC's of my own. (No Drizzt-clones, though there IS a bard who might occasionally be mistaken for him- but only becuase they both happen to be drow... Pretty sure the resemblance ends as soon as he starts to sing or dance, though, LOL!) Have they ever intimidated me? As a player, there was only ever ONE NPC who did, and HE was neither good, nor from Faerun. (It was Soth, and my PC got out of that encounter by the skin of her teeth!)

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WalkerNinja
Senior Scribe

USA
562 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2012 :  04:22:26  Show Profile Send WalkerNinja a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In my campaign there were two DM criiques of Uber-NPCs and one Player critique of Uber-NPCs

DM Critique 1: Designing adventures that would be beneath the notice of the NPCs but that was still compelling for the PCs.
DM Critique 2: Maintaining distance between PCs and Uber-NPCs because my PCs either want to mooch off of them or kill them for glory--neither of which is something that I'm interested in running.
Player Critique: Where the hell are all the big-guys? Why is a 32nd level mage sending us to deal with orcs when he could sneeze and end them?

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Chosen of Asmodeus
Master of Realmslore

1221 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2012 :  09:52:20  Show Profile  Visit Chosen of Asmodeus's Homepage Send Chosen of Asmodeus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've ran into problems with them before. Usually depends on whether or not I'm DM'ing, though occasionally even then I've had to compromise with players who like sticking to the novel canon.

When I'm DM'ing and have free range of the place, the chosen generally end up as severed heads on pikes(sometimes still talking).

When I'm not, or I don't, I've run into problems such as "Why doesn't/hasn't [insert character here] deal/dealt with this themselves yet?" and problems like "you can't do that, or you can, but if you do [insert character here] will kill you if you try or when they find out."

So yes, I feel they interfere, especially when one's dm/party is too concerned with maintaining the status quo, as maintaining the status quo is the explicitly stated purpose for the existence of the Chosen in the first place.

When you're not afraid to violate that, then no, they don't present a problem. Merely targets.

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Neo2151
Learned Scribe

USA
113 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2012 :  11:33:05  Show Profile  Send Neo2151 an AOL message Send Neo2151 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In the past? Never. In the future? Who knows...

For example, 3.X's Elminster seemed more like the retired Sage who might offer some knowledge or advice but would be more interested in having the PCs actually be the ones to "save the realms."
While 4th/5th Edition's Elminster seems more like, "I wish someone else would step up and take the job already! It's too bad there's literally no one in the world who can do it except me." (After all, his granddaughter is only good enough because she's a blood relative, remember?)


tl:dr - If this is a valid WoTC complain/concern... well it's their own fault for steering the Realms in that direction! xD

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Tarlyn
Learned Scribe

USA
304 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2012 :  15:41:35  Show Profile Send Tarlyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Never was a problem for my group.

Tarlyn Embersun
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Old Man Harpell
Senior Scribe

USA
473 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2012 :  16:53:02  Show Profile  Visit Old Man Harpell's Homepage Send Old Man Harpell a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I voted 'No', based solely on 'Intimidate'. I have had Big Names appear before, but only fleetingly, and never in a deus ex machina role.

I have always assumed that the 'Big Names' are off doing 'Big Stuff' that a player character has precisely zero chance of handling. They may indirectly contribute to the Big Name accomplishing his task, but I would never let them know about it.

As in, the players may have defeated the fallen paladin and dragged her off to face justice, but they (and maybe even the paladin herself) may never know that she was key to a grand design set in motion by, say, Manshoon, an unstoppable plot that a Big Name can now ruin simply because a necessary element (the paladin) has been removed. You can't fire a gun if the firing pin has been removed, after all.
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Erik Scott de Bie
Forgotten Realms Author

USA
4586 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2012 :  17:44:16  Show Profile  Visit Erik Scott de Bie's Homepage  Send Erik Scott de Bie an AOL message Send Erik Scott de Bie a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The way I see it . . .

1) The Big NPCs are really just NPCs to interact with when the PCs get to that level: Elminster and those like him are much like the lords, mercenary captains, barkeeps, etc., of the world, just at the next tier of play. When the PCs are more powerful than the king, who do they bother with? The high level NPCs of comparable power to themselves.

2) The big NPCs have lots of power, but very limited time: Elminster could wipe out all the orcs in the Stonelands if he wanted to, it would just take a couple weeks to root them all out. A couple weeks he doesn't have. Much better to send heroes to do it, as that way it gets done, and maybe those heroes become more experienced and powerful and become more useful allies at a later date. Being influential is not a matter of personal power but rather of connections.

3) Even the most powerful NPCs can get overwhelmed: Much as the book suggests otherwise, Drizzt couldn't take on 1,000 orcs single-handedly in a big rush. The math just isn't on his side. Leaving aside the aid another action (by which the orcs make it much more likely they will hit him with their attacks), the odds are the orcs will roll enough crits to take him down. This ties into the time issue, as well. It takes Drizzt hours if not days to dispatch an entire orc horde--meanwhile, the next orc horde over massacres the village Drizzt was trying to protect. Game over.

4) There are just as many extremely powerful evil threats as powerful heroes, if not WAY MORE: Sure, Elminster could go clean out a dungeon full of kobolds and orcs, but if he does so, who's around to defend Shadowdale when Manshoon decides to take advantage of the opportunity of Elminster's absence and have the Zhentarim invade. Elminster arrives back home to find the village in flames and all the people massacred or enslaved. Game over. But let's say Elminster can fight off the Zhentarim, including Manshoon--odds are, however, that he is so weakened in the assault that when he arrives home to find a dozen Red Wizards armed with the best Thay has to offer, he loses the resulting fight. Extra game over.

By their very nature, high-level NPCs act as a deterrent for other high-level NPCs, who deter them as well. It slows the game down at the highest level. The PCs--as heroes of the setting--represent a wild card that can swing the balance one way or the other. That's why there is a status quo--so the players can come in and shape it their way.

5) Uni-lateral action causes more problems than it solves: Sure, let's say Elminster could just go wipe out Zhentil Keep. He says "enough of this," swoops in, destroys Manshoon, kills all the Black Network, etc. That's when the ripple effects start: what about other countries dependent on Zhentil Keep for economic purposes? They take a huge hit too (and become Elminster's enemies). What about all the good/decent people and families living and working in Zhentil Keep because they have no other choice? Now deprived of their livelihood (and probably a few family members), they do anything from starving in misery, turning to lives of thievery and murder, to raising the banner of the Black Network anew. What fearsome new power takes the Zhentarim's place--a foreign power or the heir from down the street, who proves far worse than what we had? And what about all the other powerful NPCs who might have wanted to see the Zhentarim situation handled in a different way--one not so destructive to the region? What about the other power figures who are horrified that Elminster would do such a cruel and murderous thing? Elminster has alienated all of those folks.

In Conclusion:

Making real change in the world is a glacially slow process, based on diplomacy with the threat of force. Elminster can't just go around attacking everyone who doesn't want to do things his way. To take an example from our world, you don't see the United States just turning its enormous firepower to annihilate every threatening regime (because believe me, they could, particularly if nuclear weapons were on the table). For a first, that creates so many more enemies than it eliminates, it destabilizes entire continents, and basically makes the world worse off than it was.

I think D&D players, by the very nature of the game (a PC-centric model of "acquire more power and handle things personally") measure NPCs in that way, and wonder why someone with great power doesn't just "fix the world" over the course of a weekend. It's way, WAY more complicated than that. Even if that were possible--and a high-level NPC could make that kind of change with a wave of a magic wand--the fallout from the event is potentially devastating, and certainly way too unpredictable to make it a valid tactic. Not to mention that it weakens whoever did the deed, creating an opportunity for the NPC's multifarious enemies to settle the score.

Cheers

Erik Scott de Bie

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rjfras
Learned Scribe

261 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2012 :  18:49:53  Show Profile  Visit rjfras's Homepage Send rjfras a Private Message  Reply with Quote
awesome explanation Erik...
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Zireael
Master of Realmslore

Poland
1190 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2012 :  19:39:04  Show Profile  Visit Zireael's Homepage Send Zireael a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I concur.

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Kno
Senior Scribe

452 Posts

Posted - 27 Nov 2012 :  06:32:12  Show Profile Send Kno a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Nobody says how many epic level dragons are there. Together they would rule Faerūn. In novels Elminster could die from a single orc blow.

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