Content of the article: "Am I being “that DM” with this NPC?"
TLDR: The party of people all specced for utility and support is running with a NPC 8 levels higher than them, specced for combat and with secrets. Am I being “that DM” with the OP DMPC who messes with party flow, or am I giving them the opportunity to not just run away from every combat?
So I’m running a game that I pitched as a murder mystery. They have just gotten past all the investigation and intrigue in the town itself, and now they are going into a forest full of dangers of various natures. Particularly things that they’re gonna have to fight.
I gave them the chance to bring along one of two guard captains to help them in the forest, both for plot reasons and because, while they’re very good at investigation and persuasion, they’re very much not suited for combat. (Party consists of a Fey Pact Warlock, a Celestial Pact Warlock, a Lore Bard, and a Scout Rogue; the last is really the only character that can be in melee comfortably.) They could choose between an elf ranger and an aasimar paladin. After much agonizing, they chose the Paladin.
We’re about to have the first actual combat in the game after 12 sessions. It’s definitely going slower than I originally envisioned it, but they spent a lot of time on a side quest so it makes sense.
(Spoilers for Port Shimmerly just in case one of my players comes across this post)
They chose the Paladin. The Paladin guard captain is secretly an oathbreaker paladin(5)/celestial pact warlock(12) with a pact blade (fallen aasimar who started as a paladin, fell into league with a local diety and is working towards his apocalyptic reawakening — highly integrated into a home-brew region on the Sword Coast). I’m setting him up to be a BBEG in a larger campaign some time in the future. In the future he would be surreptitiously sabotaging the party’s goals, but in this context, he wants to solve the murder and also take measure of the party.
Anyway. I built a stat block for him ages ago. I was picking and choosing abilities from Warlock and Paladins. The problem was his spell list. I was having a hard time remembering what things he got from which sources. I was home brewing a way to give him more smites, because he works hard to make himself appear to be a paladin. And I was having trouble balancing combats to him to be in with the Level 9 party members.
So I decided to just see what would happen if I built him as a PC. I immediately realized that a) this was wayyy easier to build and b) he was much more powerful than I was giving him credit for. I feel like he has what I wanted him to have, I had just balanced him incorrectly to begin with. He can do a ton of damage with just one of his attacks (he has two and a BA attack).
But he is 8 levels higher than the party and can shit out damage. Again, he’s not going to use about half the abilities, and even less of the higher level ones because there are two warlocks, one of which has a celestial pact and would probably figure it out. (I’ve been dropping hints about him slowly, and they haven’t picked up on it yet)
So finally. My question is whether or not having an NPC like this is a bad move. Am I being “that DM” with the overpowered DMPC that makes the party look bad? Or am I just giving them the opportunity to have more engaging combats where they’re doing something other than eldritch blast from 600’, or running away? I also want them to build kind of a reliance on and friendship with him so his eventual betrayal stings all the more.
PM me for a link to the D&DBeyond character sheet I made for him if you are interested.
- The d20 was a bro today and I got to deploy a huge, weird clue in STYLE.
- How my warlock won at mental chess with his patron
- Tips for playing: aasimar
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