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mensch
Seeker

80 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  10:59:24  Show Profile  Visit mensch's Homepage Send mensch a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
As a DM I'm quite reluctant to use heroes in my campaign. I'm afraid their inclusion will somehow break the realism and immersion we have while playing. Both as a DM and player I think it would be rather strange to encounter big names like Elminster, Khelben or Danica Maupoissant, especially because so much is written about those characters in various novels.

I know of campaigns/adventures where the players encountered almost every hero in the Forgotten Realms and had tea with Drizzt. The only situation where I could see such a situation work is when the players have achieved epic levels and have a reason to visit people like Fzoul or Halaster Blackcloak - e.g. fetch major magical artefacts from powerful spellcasters in the Realms.

Do you think including such heroes in a campaign is generally a bad idea or does it add to the fun for the DM and the players?

Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate to know that for destruction ice is also great and would suffice. – Robert Frost (1874 - 1963)

Edited by - mensch on 30 Jun 2010 10:59:59

Cleric Generic
Senior Scribe

United Kingdom
565 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  11:23:51  Show Profile  Visit Cleric Generic's Homepage Send Cleric Generic a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think having them dive in to save the PCs, join the party as DM-PCs or other such things might generally be unwise. If the DM wants to have a go at RPing a big name NPC and the PCs are familiar enough with them to get a kick out of it, I don't see it being a problem if they're more in the background, as opposed to participating significantly in the action. The classic example being the PCs jumping through all sorts of hoops to seek the sage advice of Elminster on some important matter.

Evil or otherwise antagonistic NPCs are another matter, especially if the PCs are intent on kicking their heads in. I'd use them more like recurring comic-book villains (depending on the NPC in question, of course) with a series of at least semi-social encounters leading to the final punch up.

Basically, keep to the usual guideline of the PCs being the stars of the show and you should be all right.

Cedric! The Cleric Generic and Master of Disguise!

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GRYPHON
Senior Scribe

USA
525 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  13:33:50  Show Profile Send GRYPHON a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You could always have them give the PC's unseen aid when necessary. This could be a possible, gradual build-up to the day when you think they are ready to interact with individuals of that stature.
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Kilvan
Senior Scribe

Canada
894 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  15:21:46  Show Profile Send Kilvan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In my very humble opinion, I think that not only CAN you use the important figures of the realms (I'm mainly thinking about the chosens of Mystra here, not Drizzt), but you SHOULD. I don't know about your PCs, but mine will over-analyse every event and possibility (we are all engineer after all ).

Sooo, when a certain situation comes up that will threaten the security of, say Waterdeep, unless the PCs do something about it, they will wonder why Khelben is not taking care of it. Knowing that, I always take into account what they (the chosens) are doing at the time, and I always manage to give them much more important tasks that will explain why they can't take care of everything at the same time.

That said, I almost never actually use them 'physically', and when I do, it is very brief and important. I want to keep the stunning effect that my PCs have when Khelben shows up, so it does not become usual stuff (Oh, hey, how are ya Elminster, long time no see....)

Oh, and Drizzt, I never use him at all, since contrary to the chosens, his existence has no impact on the security of the realms at all, so I don't bother.

Hope that helps
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Rhewtani
Senior Scribe

USA
508 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  16:13:20  Show Profile Send Rhewtani a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm with Kilvan. I recently used Elminster to actually fix some plot holes in Ruins of Adventure. There's a ghost in the graveyard there that just gives out free magic items. Since he galavants around in Curse of the Azure Bonds in a silly disguise, I just made that ghost - him. I needed to work one PC out of the main plot for one game and also set him up to run solo for a sesson. So, Elminster as the ghost gave everyone a magic item and the one given to that PC acted sort of like a portkey from Harry Potter. The PC happens to be the clone of a Cormaeril. So, El took him to Suzail, had drinks with him before his scheduled dinner with Vangerdahast. V gave the PC a strange look and then V and El went off to another table. Afterwards, El rewarded the PC by taking him to an ancient and guarded vault in Waterdeep (the PC was way behind on treasure - I let him make a 5th level guy and gave him a bastards sort and a peasant's oufit), and then dropped him back in Phlan in the midst of Tyranthraxus attacking the city.

Did I use him as deus ex machina? Sorta. Did I ruin anyone's time? Nope. Did I give the impression they were friends now? Nope. Just a hint of what's out there and a story for the PC to share with the group.
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woodwwad
Learned Scribe

USA
267 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  19:36:40  Show Profile  Visit woodwwad's Homepage Send woodwwad a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I also used some gods in my last game. Myrkul was met by 3 of the pcs in visions. The remaining essence of Leira was found after killing a cursed former priestess of Sune who fell to the enbrace of Cyric around the time's of troubles and lived in Featherdale. It was an interesting story, she was a Sembian priestess of Sune who betrayed her order for her lust for power (which the pcs learned about once they took her black bible & read her accounts. It was a complicated story of her lust for power, deciet, wickedness which led to her being raped & cast out by Sune & turned into a Medusa). She ended up in Featherdale guarding the heart of Leira. The pcs end of investigating the strange noises on moonless nights by the waterfall. Of course one of them ends up being turned to stone. They kill the priestess, who's name I cannot recall off the top of my head, & are lead by the spirit of Leira to a silver box carved with the symbol of cyric which held her heart. Leira was released & has become something like Lara, very minor god, below a demigod) she's now the goddess of the river ashaba where she was killed & is now imprisoned.

Lliira also appeared to one of the pcs a bard that worshipped her, & become a Scarlet Mummer.

Talos & Tempus appeared in the last session were the pcs had journeid to the far north with a group of 41 followers (priests & paladins) of Tyr from the abbey of the justice hammer. Following a vision of the lord high avenger, who's another realms npc I used---he ended up dying. Tyr had sent him visions to bring him members of his family. There were also visions given to the priest of tempus in my party regarding this. They open a portal to another world allowing Odin, Thor & Loki (who was not one of the gods anyone was trying to allow in).

Tempus & Talos show up & battle Thor who splits into two & battles both of them, ending up being killed by Talos & Tempus who consume him but in the process are changed a bit in their look. Thor states to the pc worshipping tempus that he can join with him, the pc says something like hell no & spits on Thor. Then the hammer was dropped on him, with him then appearing in Tempus's battlehall (of course he was totally dead) but it was a good sense & the pc really enjoyed that end to his character as he stood tall against a god, if for nothing more than a moment.

I little over a year before this Mystra is killed by Myrkul which collapses the weave. Odin, a new interloper god, comes in in 1377 & becomes the new god of magic. I also ran a cut sensee at the end of the game showing Loki killing Mask & taking his portfolio.

Hopefully the way I've described this doesn't come off sounding too booty. I of course had to be very short on detail but these events were major peices of the story & greatly enjoyed by the characters. They were of course in game rendered with great detail.

Check out my reviews on youtube of Forgotten Realms and other rpg products. http://www.youtube.com/user/woodwwad?feature=mhum
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althen artren
Senior Scribe

USA
780 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  21:15:15  Show Profile Send althen artren a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You really should ask Ed about the best way to use the
big name npc's. For instance, he has stated that
the way the Chosen are viewed in our world and in Faerun is
vastly different. Because of the focus of the big names
is so much literature, it gives the impression that the
typical Faerunian knows about them, which is indeed not the
case in the majority.
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Markustay
Realms Explorer extraordinaire

USA
15724 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  22:34:04  Show Profile Send Markustay a Private Message  Reply with Quote
IMHO, BAD idea.

quote:
Originally posted by GRYPHON

You could always have them give the PC's unseen aid when necessary. This could be a possible, gradual build-up to the day when you think they are ready to interact with individuals of that stature.

Which immediately undercuts the PC's importance in the 'grand scheme of things'.

You never want your players to feel like pawns in some great game - they need to think the world - or at least the situation at hand - revolves around them.

Even using the FR NPCs as 'Sponsors', sending the heroes out on missions, isn't a good idea IMHO. What that means is that if they weren't there, the Blackstaff (or whoever) would just go and find someone else to do the PC's job (which means they aren't special, AT ALL).

I think using the big guns is more of an ego thing for certain DMs, who just want to play with the authors/designers 'toys'. A good DM can create his own memorable NPCs, and shouldn't have to rely on the 'Hollywood types' FR is rife with. The game is about the players, not the Dungeon Master.

"I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me" --- Dudley Field Malone

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Kilvan
Senior Scribe

Canada
894 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  22:59:16  Show Profile Send Kilvan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Markustay

I think using the big guns is more of an ego thing for certain DMs, who just want to play with the authors/designers 'toys'. A good DM can create his own memorable NPCs, and shouldn't have to rely on the 'Hollywood types' FR is rife with. The game is about the players, not the Dungeon Master.



Can't say I agree with you here. While I have no doubt it is sometime the case for some DMs, my PCs love when when they finally attracted the attention of famous NPCs, because it usually mean that they are 'somebodies'. When I use a Chosen of Mystra, however brief that may be, I do it for the PCs, not my ego. And I do have memorable NPCs of my own, heck probably 99% of my NPCs are from my own twisted mind.

Anyway, I just think that using a famous NPC once in a while adds something, some flavour, to a campaign.
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woodwwad
Learned Scribe

USA
267 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2010 :  23:19:43  Show Profile  Visit woodwwad's Homepage Send woodwwad a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kilvan

quote:
Originally posted by Markustay

I think using the big guns is more of an ego thing for certain DMs, who just want to play with the authors/designers 'toys'. A good DM can create his own memorable NPCs, and shouldn't have to rely on the 'Hollywood types' FR is rife with. The game is about the players, not the Dungeon Master.



Can't say I agree with you here. While I have no doubt it is sometime the case for some DMs, my PCs love when when they finally attracted the attention of famous NPCs, because it usually mean that they are 'somebodies'. When I use a Chosen of Mystra, however brief that may be, I do it for the PCs, not my ego. And I do have memorable NPCs of my own, heck probably 99% of my NPCs are from my own twisted mind.

Anyway, I just think that using a famous NPC once in a while adds something, some flavour, to a campaign.

I would agree, the occasional use of these npcs can add to the games flavor.

I had to disagree with another users comments above. The game needs to be for the DM too, if it is just for the players why bother. You as a DM need to make sure you are having a good time & doing a lot of things that are fun for you too. I think that kind of attitude leads to a lot of DMs getting burned out. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a lot of Dms have used realms npcs in really terrible ways that damages their games.

Check out my reviews on youtube of Forgotten Realms and other rpg products. http://www.youtube.com/user/woodwwad?feature=mhum
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Kilvan
Senior Scribe

Canada
894 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2010 :  00:39:55  Show Profile Send Kilvan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think that what Markustay meant was that, like Cleric Generic stated above, the heroes of the game must always be the PCs, not the DM. They must feel that even if there is some bigger players in play, they are essential to the game, not just tools for the DM's designs, and I agree 100%.
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Darkmeer
Senior Scribe

USA
505 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2010 :  07:35:38  Show Profile  Visit Darkmeer's Homepage Send Darkmeer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Depending on the campaign, it could be great fun or it could be a hindrance.

Suppose you're working for the harpers in the dalelands... You might run into the old, cranky one himself. He could be meeting with Storm, or just point you in a direction away from something that the DM doesn't want you to see (giving you a bigger carrot to follow for the time being), or other such things. KnightErrantJR's Mistledale campaign had multiple encounters with some big names in the dalelands, but none of them overshadowed the PC's and, in fact, he tied the Elminster in Hell novels to our actions (blasted Shades).

In Waterdeep, working for the lords of Waterdeep, you might run afoul of a large number of named characters. Personally, so long as they are there for the theme of the adventure, and not to overshadow the PC's, then they'll be fine.

Honestly, I've avoided most of the big names when I've DM'd, but there are some I'm working on using for an upcoming game, but only as theme elements, and the players get to do the real hero work.

/d

"These people are my family, not just friends, and if you want to get to them you gotta go through ME."
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Rhewtani
Senior Scribe

USA
508 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2010 :  21:08:44  Show Profile Send Rhewtani a Private Message  Reply with Quote
And overall the big guys should be getting the PCs in more trouble, not less.
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Mr_Miscellany
Senior Scribe

545 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2010 :  21:41:18  Show Profile Send Mr_Miscellany a Private Message  Reply with Quote
My advice is to measure your players and their assumptions/experiences/expectations opposite the Chosen and other “Big Names”.

If your players don’t know all that much about these NPCs, what better way to teach your players about them then through your game? Start slow and use the NPCs to “fill in” the gaps so that the Realms seems alive and breathing around all the plots these NPC’s hands are in, with the players at the center.

Which is to say a DM ought to make it so the players decide which of these plots succeed and which are foiled.

:::

If your players see the big names as superheroes, don’t use them. Focus on the players and use the wide expanse of the Realms to put your players front and center before great, looming dangers that only they are in a position to stop.

:::

If your players really, truly know how the big name NPCs operate, then feel free to use or not use them as you see fit. Players with deep Realmslore knowledge will, in my opinion, appreciate an encounter or two with such NPCs when the DM runs them as close to “real” as possible.

The same holds true if your players are experienced enough not to let metagame knowledge get in the way of their fun.

In summary, there’s no such thing as a blanket “yes/no” answer to the “use them or don’t use them?” type of question. It depends on player knowledge of the Realms, the DM’s knowledge of the Realms (not to mention his/her campaign plot) and what the group’s expectations are for the campaign.

In my 3E campaign, I used just about every Chosen out there. And it was fun as hell, especially when it was the (Epic Level) PCs saving the Chosen’s butts.

I also liked roleplaying the Chosen as unique individuals with their own goals, interests and opinions. Having them disagree with each other—sometimes heatedly—then having them look to the PCs (even before they were Epic level) to ultimately decide what to do, was fun.
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Markustay
Realms Explorer extraordinaire

USA
15724 Posts

Posted - 01 Jul 2010 :  22:45:19  Show Profile Send Markustay a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Sorry if I came off 'hostile' toward this in my last post.

What I should have said is that you have to be a very good, experienced DM to do this properly. I've seen/heard of so many 'bad campaigns' (and unfortunately played in one for a couple of sessions) where the DM was merely getting-out his 'wish-fulfillment' with the big-name NPCs and the PCs basically just became an afterthought.

After seeing/hearing of enough of those, I've found its just better to avoid their use then risk their misuse, IMHO.

This is probably why I like players who know little or nothing about the Realms - they won't go asking "Lets go visit Elminster!" or "Lets go find Drizzt!"

In fact, my last group knew so little I probably could have had them run into Elminster - they would have been clueless as to who or what he was.

"I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me" --- Dudley Field Malone

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Faraer
Great Reader

3308 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2010 :  00:42:49  Show Profile  Visit Faraer's Homepage Send Faraer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The Realms is a big, adult, social world with people in it, and I think I understand more clearly than I used to how much this adds to its stature as a secondary world and to the potential richness of play in it. Without straying into shoulds and shouldn't, if I have players who are ready I'll joyfully throw them right into that world, and among those possibilities are some characters who are, through accident of publication, our-world-famous among D&D fans and casual Realms readers, and some more, less-exposed ones of comparable status in the Realms. I don't believe, but haven't experienced enough campaigns to be sure, it takes all that wonderful DMing to overcome the 'familiarity' factor. But 'the big guys should be getting the PCs in more trouble, not less' is certainly true -- you're hooking your characters' relationships into a whole new wider ring of potential back-and-forth fun and cause and death -- and how deep and how expansive you let your players go can certainly be a matter of the kind of campaign everyone wants.
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Markustay
Realms Explorer extraordinaire

USA
15724 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2010 :  00:55:34  Show Profile Send Markustay a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Very true - if your characters do manage to get an audience with the Sage of Shadowdale, they become 'marked' the second they walk out the door of his tower.

'Friends' of Elminster would be considered valuable tools by his enemies - and there are about 37,000 of those watching him through magical and mundane means at all times (at the very least, his tower, to see the comings-and-goings of folk).

So go talk to Elminster, or even Drizzt - you just painted a big ol' target on your back.

"I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me" --- Dudley Field Malone


Edited by - Markustay on 03 Jul 2010 01:04:27
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Kilvan
Senior Scribe

Canada
894 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2010 :  01:06:34  Show Profile Send Kilvan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Markustay

Very true - if your characters do manage to get an audience with the Sage of Shadowdale, they become 'marked' the second they walk out the door of his tower.

'Friends' of Elminster would be considered valuable tools by his enemies - and there are about 37,000 of those watching him through magical and mundane means at all times (at the very least, his tower, to see the comings-and-goings of folk).

So go talk to Elminster, or even Drizzt - you just painted a big ol' target on your back.



Hey, my PCs don't know that
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BlackAce
Senior Scribe

United Kingdom
353 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2010 :  04:59:26  Show Profile Send BlackAce a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Indeed. I had Storm send my players on several dangerous missions for no other reason than to establish how much she could trust them and wether to use them to spy on Bran Skorlsun and Twilight Hall, (gotta love the Harper Schism).

I'll also throw in a variation on Marks point about making Players feel special. I believe players SHOULD NOT feel special, rather their adventures should be the road to them becomming special and that in turn is the ultimate reward.

I'll say this much for 4th edition, it got me over my reluctance to break from canon...
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Saxmilian
Learned Scribe

USA
157 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2010 :  16:38:03  Show Profile  Visit Saxmilian's Homepage Send Saxmilian a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Markustay

I think using the big guns is more of an ego thing for certain DMs, who just want to play with the authors/designers 'toys'. A good DM can create his own memorable NPCs, and shouldn't have to rely on the 'Hollywood types' FR is rife with. The game is about the players, not the Dungeon Master.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


And yet here we all are wanting to play with Mr. Greenwood's "toys".
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Saxmilian
Learned Scribe

USA
157 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2010 :  16:50:03  Show Profile  Visit Saxmilian's Homepage Send Saxmilian a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The Major NPC's out there, Drizzt (being either loved or hated) and Elminster seem to be the two primary characters everyone I know wants to use. I have used both. I had a paladin challenge Drizzt and was quickly humbled to learn that not only were the rumors true, and that THIS drow was not evil, but showed mercy and compassion. This did two things, first it showed how even the toughest player isnt all that impressive without resorting to creatures like the terrasque to prove a point and reminded my players we were in the REALMS. If you dont throw out the "big guns" now and then, then why bother to play your game in such a rich adn detailed setting.
I've just recently, (like last night)had one of my players decide he's heard enough about the City of Shade and the evils the Shadovar are commiting and has decided to pledge his arrows (he's an Arcane Archer) to ending this evil. Out of the blue. Now the rest of my players are taking oaths and making promises they may never be able to complete, but thats the point isnt it? To interact WITH the Realms, be part of the REALMS and perhaps, have the bards sing tales of your deeds.
Even outside the Realms (gasp-forbid!) I keep a detailed log of my players actions so that the little things they have done can come back to get them. I feel this makes all their actions felt and provides real-life consequences rather than just hacking monsters to bits.
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Thauramarth
Senior Scribe

United Kingdom
693 Posts

Posted - 03 Jul 2010 :  20:24:36  Show Profile Send Thauramarth a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I tend to use them sparingly, most of the time. I've had one long-running campaign, however, where the PCs started out as former hirelings and henchmen of the Nine, who'd (barely) survived the struggle between the Nine when the Crown of Horns drove them all gaga, so they were well acquainted with Laeral, and the Blackstaff (after the latter came around to clean house). My favourite area is Waterdeep, so there's a lot of iconic characters to rub shoulders with.

I agree with Mark that the players should take main stage, and not just sit around while the DM solves issues through use of the local heavies. One of the ways to make the players feel "special", is when they know they start being noticed by some of the local powers and iconic characters, although the role of the iconics tends to be limited to "roleplaying interaction" and as adventure hooks (or false leads), rather than direct intervention or confrontation.

Club Secretary of the Dragons on the Hill RPG Club of London, UK: http://dragonsonthehill.co.uk/.
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mensch
Seeker

80 Posts

Posted - 05 Jul 2010 :  10:32:47  Show Profile  Visit mensch's Homepage Send mensch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Some of the Forgotten Realms areas are indeed quite "hero-heavy". I don't think a DM should ignore any of the important NPCs while his players are in Waterdeep, for example. It's as Kilvan said; player's are generally quite on their toes while IC, which generally leads to much hilarity for the DM and a lot of contrived, overly complex planning on the PCs part.

I like the idea some of you proposed to feature famous NPCs in the background. To let them have nonspeaking parts, or have them converse with another NPC. Having Elminster as a quest giver for example, would be stretching it, for me personally. It would also be hard for me to get all the antiquated "ye's", "doth's" and "yonders" in the right place as well... Apart from the fact that the aforementioned wizard is such an iconic NPC, I think I would find it very difficult to use such a well fleshed out character. Because there's such a detailed backstory to the character, which I didn't develop, I would have difficulty doing the character justice while playing him, I think. I don't use published adventures for the same reason, too much details to keep track of during a game session.

It depends of course how famous the NPC is. I wouldn't have any problem using someone like Azoun in a campaign dealing with Cormyr and the intrigues of the royal court. Even Khelben, in the theoretical case where one of my players becomes a high ranking Moonstar. Assuming they even have ranks.

The game is first and foremost about the players and making them feel special. A DM can obsess about his pet monsters and NPCs, but if the players aren't having fun, all is for nothing. Here's an extreme case of a DM having a lot of fun, while is players aren't having any. The subsequent rebuttal is also quite telling.

But I wouldn't use them just to be able to use them. "You're walking in a field. Oh look! There's Fzoul Chembryl bartering with Drizzt. They both say 'Hi'..." I've heard stories of a DM who really loved doing such scenes. He also gave his sorcerer girlfriend a lion as an animal companion at first level, which was a dreadfully overpowered beast and ended up doing all the hard work, e.g. fighting, much to the dismay of the rest of the party. So it might be that he was just a bad DM.

Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate to know that for destruction ice is also great and would suffice. – Robert Frost (1874 - 1963)

Edited by - mensch on 05 Jul 2010 10:37:39
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Judd
Acolyte

USA
24 Posts

Posted - 06 Jul 2010 :  03:41:07  Show Profile  Visit Judd's Homepage Send Judd a Private Message  Reply with Quote
My friends and I are playing a campaign set in the Forgotten Realms after years of not playing there. We're re-visiting a place we loved in our youth as adults. If the Realms were a stew, those NPC's would be a valuable spice, a spice that even makes the Realms Stew taste like the Realms but I wouldn't want to drown them in it.

The meat of that stew is the players' decisions, their adventures and the effects this has on the Realms. But I like a bit of spice and I like my Realms to taste like Realms and part of that comes from the big named NPC's.

Githyanki Diaspora: gaming blog

Edited by - Judd on 06 Jul 2010 04:58:46
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