The Wise old Wizard

Aka, Stay a while and listen.

There may come a time in your campaign, where you as a GM may wish to introduce an NPC to the game that could guide the party along the story.
Much like a quest giver or a contact/source of information. Or even as a companion that could join the party on their quest and help out.
How subtle you are about these things, is entirely up to you.

I know things, kiddo. It’s what i do.

Consider the following Characters:

  • Elminster Aumar
  • Gandalf (The whatever color)
  • Merlin
  • Obi wan Kenobi (Space wizard)
  • Yoda (Space wizard Redux)
  • Ramirez from Highlander
  • Dumbledore

Each of these characters fit the description of a mentor or frequently appearing character that provides wisdom and insight to the journey ahead. Or even actively lends a hand during certain events to save the parties bacon.
(See Gandalf in ‘The Hobbit’, saving the group like a deus ex machina baller.)

In my given examples, i put a heavy emphasis on Wizards. Note that this does not have to be the case. This NPC could easily be a veteran knight, a king, a woodland spirit, and old Hacker, a captain of a space cruiser or just something equally able to help out in the current setting.
The wizard is simply the most iconic.

The following song should sum this all up perfectly 🙂

As far as the design for such an NPC. Try to find a balance between standing out and not stealing the limelight from your players. (Exactly how this NPC should be played as well.)
Read up on a previous post made to fit a suitable name to your NPC.
And another to make your NPC a little more memorable.

It speaks for itself that this NPC can be more like a direct GM PC than anything else (as it usually is the case). It’s fairly easy to make these into a Mary Sue, mind you. And sadly, this ends up being the case all too many times.
It’s a very fine line to walk.
You want to avoid this at ALL COST since the GM PC can easily steal the limelight away from your players.

And unless the party is intentionally playing second fiddle from the start (to some greater good/bad), it’s always considered to be a bad idea to take away from your players experience as the main characters.
Cause why would your players sit through a game where someone else gets shit done and take all the glory?
They came to game, not spectate the GM solo the entire thing.

Even in systems like d&d and Pathfinder for example, there is a heavy emphasis on power tripping (or the act of playing to feel powerful).
They were designed this way.

Another issue with a GM’s Mary Sue character is that most of the time they are played to be haughty and demeaning towards the group right from the start and as soon as they try to measure each other up, they end up turning on the party. The GM being an effective God in the game and with the players at their mercy, this tends to either end up extremely boring or very fatal for both the PC’s and the gaming group as a whole, disbanding soon after.

You read about this stuff often enough, where a demi god like GM avatar (pretty as all hell, perfect in every way and often with more curves than a hairpin road) breaks down and goes on a personal vendetta against the party. Because ‘how dare they not agree that my perfect, imaginary person is anything but divine!’.

I again note Gandalf in The Hobbit. He imparts wisdom and advice constantly and does physically help out, but usually only at the very darkest of times. He does make a flashy show of it and comes off as OP as a result. Ramirez and Obi Wan are two great examples of a GM PC done right. They guide their wards on the right path and even help out physically if they truly need to. Even going as far as to sacrifice themselves so that the main characters may get more chances to complete their mission.

Help out when you absolutely have to but always downplay the act as if the party only needed that extra nudge to succeed. This is to avoid making the Deus Ex too obvious, (unless your trying to make  a point) and avoid being a Mary Sue. Be humble and don’t demean the parties (failed) efforts to pass through an event (unless you are actually the ‘Bad Guy’). If you do, you may end up with a party that starts to resent your PC and you as a GM. Because ‘why would you set us up for a such a difficult task if your NPC can just waltz through it with your god like power…? ‘.
‘What was the point?’

Another variant of a GM being able to Deus Ex in favor of the party through a character, can be through the likes of the Lucky but bumbling weakling.
Consider how many times C3PO has actually saved the party by bumping or falling into things.
C3PO might even be the best humble GM PC you could have.
(Note that C3PO is not a mentor and usually has no respect from anyone in the party. He is not a guide unless consulted for strips of knowledge. Which basically makes him a walking, bumbling ‘Siri’ or ‘Cortana’ with attitude.)

C3PO reacting to the Siri remark.
  • He boasts about his abilities as a translator but that’s actually just his programming and not at all an OP ability.
  • He is physically weak and no threat to your party.
  • His vast amount of knowledge about everything and anything make him pretty dependable as a source.
  • He is able to provide insight and offer suggestions depending on the situation.
  • As a semi comic relief character, a GM can downplay his actions to be able to save the party without the party feeling intimidated or shoved to the side.

Consider what was said here for your future games 🙂

Happy gaming!




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