Friday, November 20, 2009

GMNPC: Thy Name is Griffith

Over at the ole Dark Horse website, we've got the cover, summary, and preview for Berserk #4.
Here we get a lot of background on Guts. We learn that as a chid he continued to use weapons larger than he could handle because the mercenary company he was a part of didn't carry 'child' weapons and so he overcompensated for it.
We see some horrific things happen to him.
We see the fickle nature of mercenaries as they go from mocking Gut's adoptive father and both hating him and fearing him to hating Guts for being born from his mother's corpse under a hanging tree and brought back from near death by Gambino, Gut's adoptive father's woman, Shisu, a prostitude who recently miscarried.
But more than any of that, we meet Griffith. To put it in short, he's a GMNPC. This is a Game Master Non Player Character. Now in theory, every character that's not being controlled by a player, is a NPC. A GMNPC however, is special.
In Griffith's case, he's handsome. He's charismatic. He's a military genius. The biggest 'sin' though of Griffith, is that he's a better swordsman than Guts.
Or at least those would be Griffith's sins in a role playing game where the players have no patience for a long term and told story and don't want to have to share the spotlight at any time.
For example, in future volumes, Griffith's abilities rarely come into play as far as they interact with Guts. It's a campaign tool that allows Griffith to move Guts into positions and 'missions' that Guts is best suited for.
A good fiction example with potential similarity is the Lady from the Black Company. Far too powerful for the Company to even think of fighting until they believe she's betrayed them, the Lady is the one who provides the Black Comapny with employement.
The thing about NPCs though, unlike the players, is that they are capable of changes in many fields ranging not only from attitudes and outlooks, but in power levels. Those who've read far along in the Berserk Manga or the Black Company series know that the Wheel of Fortune is often not kind to those it keeps at the top for a long time.
When thinking about patrons for the players, be aware of their own personal likes and dislikes. If they have an intense hatred of GMNPCs, even if those characters are merely used to provide opportunity for further advancement of the player's own goals, there's a good chance the players will walk away from that NPC and perhaps even from the campaign. Some players have no problem accepting a fantasy society where technology has stayed the same for ten thousand years but get up in arms when asked to do a mission for a high powered NPC who they feel should just "do it themselves."
Keep that in mind and use when and where appropriate.