Page 237 - Step Into the Light

24th Jan 2013, 6:00 AM
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Step Into the Light
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 24th Jan 2013, 6:00 AM edit delete
Newbiespud
Competent NPCs live in a strange little realm. Players love NPCs that are just capable enough to take care of themselves without being babysat. On the other hand, NPCs that are a little too competent can sometimes make the players feel like their actions don't matter.

Got a story about a super-competent NPC? By all means, share it below.

72 Comments:

Grey Pen 24th Jan 2013, 6:04 AM edit delete reply
I have an inexperienced pair of players in my in-person campaign (they're 8 and 10, whaddya do?) I have a not-quite DMPC (A mute unicorn magician) who flits in and out when I feel they need to either be pushed in the right direction, or saved from their own dice/inexperience.

Probably not the best way to go about it, but it works...
DracoS 24th Jan 2013, 6:05 AM edit delete reply
Super-competent? I guess.

One DM I know had the same NPC appear in two campaigns. Normally not a bad thing except these were two different games - Pathfinder and Gurps - and they were in two different settings - 1920's-flavored fantasy and some weird multiverse. And it WAS the exact same guy who always had his own pocket dimension filled with exactly the magical item we'd need to progress.
Digo 24th Jan 2013, 6:42 AM edit delete reply
Ugh, one of our GMs has a character worse that that. It was a T-1000 who was something like 10,000 years old, a time lord, Fleet admiral for Starfleet, and always knew details about the party despite not meeting them before.

The GM got pissed at us when we labeled that character a Mary Sue, mostly because he didn't understand what a Mary Sue was. We countered that we'd never play under him again if he used that NPC.

So far its been two (different) campaigns since and that NPC has never showed up.
Aegis Steadfast 24th Jan 2013, 6:08 AM edit delete reply
Aegis Steadfast
My pillow. The only voice of reason loud enough to be heard.
Grey Pen 24th Jan 2013, 6:33 AM edit delete reply
Clearly you need to work on being louder. I know a couple of caprines who might be able to help with that...
Kynrasian 24th Jan 2013, 6:27 AM edit delete reply
Kynrasian
Just one.

There's only three of us, so by necessity whoever's DMing still gets to play their character and our cleric goes to the player who volunteers.

I can't speak for the both of us but when I DM and use a PC at the same time, I live by a rule of only using the PC as a DMing tool to help the player. You know, make him do something that tells the players "this'll make the encounter easier" and little cues like that. If I ever make him be the one to suggest a course of action out loud it'll be because the game's going nowhere

Technically that makes them NPCs, super-competent ones at that, but they've never made player action feel inconsequential. More often than not, they only ever intervene on the DMs behalf if any other action means a really unhappy player.

In fact I took more issue with the NPC who knows Fireball of all spells and yet apparently cannot fight.
Digo 24th Jan 2013, 6:37 AM edit delete reply
Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (I seriously should write a memoir...)


One of the BBEGs of the campaign was an adult red dragon named Astraxia. When I ran EtCR, one twist I added was that Count Strahd trapped Astraxia in the body of an elf. She lost all her draconic abilities but retained her intelligence and her rogue/bard skills.

She was still easily the most intelligent NPC in the area, if no longer the strongest. When she joined forces with the PCs, she always had trouble fitting in because she was just too darn smart for her own good:

She crafted shivs out of silver coins in case of werewolf attacks.

She kept a supply of garlic for vampire repellant.

She took notes of the combat styles used by reoccuring bosses, finding exploitable weaknesses.

She used cover, flanking, and stealth to her advantage.

At the end of the expedition, once Strahd was "killed", Astraxia regained her dragon abilities. She decided to stop fighting the PCs and turn herself in to the authorities. Instead, half the party wanted to join her as minions because she was just so darn compitant. XD
Desfore 25th Jan 2013, 3:26 AM edit delete reply
Holy shit, I'm gonna have to remember that "crafting shivs out of silver coins" trick.
Anvildude 25th Jan 2013, 10:46 AM edit delete reply
Easier way of doing it is nailing a couple silver coins to a wooden club.
CJT 25th Jan 2013, 11:01 AM edit delete reply
We've actually run into similar issues in the Pathfinder campaign.

The downside to having an economy that actually works, is that you start to wonder why alchemically silvering arrowheads costs more than just melting down silver to make arrowheads.

(Presumably because medieval silver alloys make crappy weapons even compared to medieval iron alloys, but still.)
Zeeth 25th Jan 2013, 11:08 AM edit delete reply
Yeah. Sterling silver is nice, but I wouldn't be able to bend a steel ring quite so easily as the band I normally wear.
Dusk Raven 25th Jan 2013, 1:59 PM edit delete reply
Alchemical silver still makes for crappy weapons... somewhat. At least in 3.5 it had a -1 to damage, as I recall.
Aerion Snowpaw 26th Jan 2013, 4:59 AM edit delete reply
It's got -1 damage... On slashing and piercing weapons.
Alchemicaly bonding silver to a metal ball stuck on top of a metal pole (aka a mace, hammer, or great-hammer, depending on size and shape) works just fine.

One would assume silver doesn't carry an edge as well as steel, but isn't coating the weapon thickly enough to cushion a mace-blow.
Arcane Archers Anonymous 9th Jun 2014, 2:19 AM edit delete reply
My brother won't let me do that in our current 4e game he was DMing. He did let me create silver tipped arrows out of silver arm-bands, but when I asked about the silver coins, he decided that the coins weren't pure silver, and thus would not work as weapon.
Destrustor 24th Jan 2013, 6:45 AM edit delete reply
Destrustor
Not sure if I've mentionned it, but there's The Elf. With capitals and all. The one NPC who attained godhood through sheer competence. He had a name, which we players promptly forgot in favor of just calling him The Elf.
The DM basically never rolled anything but natural twenties for his attack rolls. I'm positive he wasn't cheating for that, since it was a major derailment to his own campaign. He was personally exasperated by The Elf's competence.
At level two or three, we get attacked by a freaking beholder. We are obviously meant to flee but one character decides to fight. The Elf climbs on the chariot to cover him, shoots his arrow, and crits. The kind of instant-death crit.
At one point we get roped into a test to become honorary members of the Battlehammer clan of dwarves. The test is a tournament, gladiator-style, in teams. We eventually get to face a trio of epic-level dwarves: A dwarf defender, a cleric and a wizard. The Elf wins initiative and shoots the defender; instant-death crit. One of the dwarves rolls a natural one, we get attacks of opportunity, The Elf instant-death-crits again. The other dwarf does whatever on his round and when our round comes up again, The Elf instant-death-crits AGAIN.
The Dwarves were levels 33,34 and 35. We were around level 8. We became honorary members of clan Battlehammer.
At one point we were sent to deal with a fire giant somewhere. We get there to find the whole region blanketed by a huge fog bank. One character jokingly says that The Elf should just blind-fire into the fog to kill it. The Elf does so for the lulz. DM rolls for luck with his d100: Fricckin' 100, meaning he actually shot at the giant with his random arrow. He then rolls against AC: Instant-death crit. Our characters hear a loud thump in the distance, and investigation reveals the giant, dead by arrow-to-the-brain.
He kept going like that, eventually being worshipped by our characters at first, before getting even more followers thanks to his endless string of impossible exploits. This eventually makes him gain a divine rank. And then he kept going, becoming a major deity and completely overshadowing the actual elven god and taking his place.
He was the god of luck, archery, justice, elves, and about five more domains by the end of the campaign. Just because the DM rolls like a god despite himself.
Digo 24th Jan 2013, 7:14 AM edit delete reply
Wow. I want whatever dice he's using for rolls. o_o
Destrustor 24th Jan 2013, 7:59 AM edit delete reply
Destrustor
It's not the dice, it's the guy.
He always rolls like that, no matter what dice he uses.

In one game we were accompanied by a DMPC on our way to attack the big bad. We had one plan: "We do whatever we can to annoy the boss while the DMPC one-shots her with a magical crit"
Our entire plan was to simply expect him to crit.
And he did exactly that: Magical crit on his maximized disintegrate spell for 3Xdamage, and the boss failed her save. One-shot, just like we had predicted.
Werekat 24th Jan 2013, 8:47 AM edit delete reply
Can't help but think Corellon was trolling you people...
Digo 25th Jan 2013, 6:22 AM edit delete reply
The GM could of had a great Troll moment if he had fudged the die roll so that the nat 20 did happen, leaving the players needing a plan B. XD
Some other guy 26th Jan 2013, 5:41 AM edit delete reply
Reminds me of Alistar, the epitome of every evil DMPC ever. On a 4th ed adventure. Alistar was an epic-level fighter (we were level 6, as I recall) with fancy custom uber-equipment that arbitrarily had immunity to everything; his helmet blocked magical sound, his armour made him impervious to the classical elements, and so forth. The DM intended to use him as a party minder and to keep us on the rails.
The catch? He had the exact opposite problem as The Elf. His rolls were universally terrible. I mean like the highest he ever rolled was a 3, and most were critical failures. All the dice were rolled in the open, so it wasn't the DM fudging rolls to tone hime down or anything.
His incompetence was legendary. His most ridiculous fail was accidentally releasing the ancient forgotten god of Destruction and Death and Doom and other nouns beginning with "D" about 15 levels before it was supposed to happen (the DM was a firm believer in letting the dice decide, no cutscenes allowed. Whether or not building an Uber DMPC to force the issue is cheating is another point entirely). At that point we got so fed up with his pathetic rolls that we jammed the sonic equivalent of a grenade into his soundproof helmet. The DM ruled it completely contained what should have been a burst 5 Sonic attack, so the Chunky Salsa Rule applied. But he was still an important part of his plot, so he gave him a Saving throw to avoid it.
And thus was Alistar's head reduced to a fine powder with 101 uses.
Greggors 24th Jan 2013, 6:54 AM edit delete reply
I once had the PCs go through a mission to rescue a bunch of miners. They had been digging when a cave in dropped them into a dungeon. One had managed to escape and get the PCs for a rescue. As they went through the dungeon, this little lvl 1 miner made it through every trap and fight utterly unscathed from dice luck, unlike the party. In the end, he was the one leading the party, not the other way around.
Oblivious 24th Jan 2013, 7:38 AM edit delete reply
Oblivious
I'd have to say that a good number of our allied NPC's were super competent in the Pony Tales campaign. So much so that the only real standout was the least competent, Lance. Worst guard ever paired with Percival, one of the smartest guards I've seen in a campaign in a while. Hilarity always ensues; more on that later...
Tatsurou 24th Jan 2013, 12:18 PM edit delete reply
Hilary ensues? What do the Clinton's have to do with ponies? XD
Oblivious 24th Jan 2013, 1:41 PM edit delete reply
Oblivious
Heh, typo is what it has to do with ponies. That's what I get for typing in a sleep-deprived daze...
Stairc 24th Jan 2013, 7:57 PM edit delete reply
Stairc
Ah yes, Percival and Lance - a dynamic duo if there ever was one. I'd love to hear some of your remembered moments regarding them. =)

My most infamous NPCs are probably my most highly competent and my most desperately incompetent. Drevan, the competent, and Dupuee, the incompetent.

Both have been talked about in previous games. Interestingly though, while too-competent NPCs can definitely make players feel like they matter less and slightly incompetent NPCs can be annoying - *extraordinarily* competent or incompetent NPCs can be the most fun of all.

From Old Man Winthrop - an NPC that players still remember fondly despite the fact he only appeared for a brief moment in one adventure (he was a 67 year old veteran hero of the last war and he kicked the players' asses when they challenged him to a fight) to Captain Winslow (their worthy and brilliant sea-captain) to Narishani (a player's cat familiar that was so competent that she basically became the adventuring group's leader for a while and ended up being hired by a god to run his intelligence network) and, of course, Drevan.

Dupuee was the opposite side of things. He was the most incompetent person ever, the Jar Jar Binks of my campaign. He's actually the main force of antagonism in most roleplaying-focused adventures that I run when he's anywhere nearby - but always unintentionally so. He's extremely well-meaning, just extremely bad at what he does. So bad in fact that one of the players, whose character ascended to godhood, tried to get Dupuee to *stop* worshiping him and start worshiping an evil god instead, so he could go muck up THAT god's plans.
Zarhon 24th Jan 2013, 8:07 AM edit delete reply
Zarhon
Pony Team Bravo's changeling queen would fit the bill of an overcompetent NPC.

Due to lack of any clues as to what to do next, we more or less had no choice but to un-petrify her (see some of the previous comment stories), then follow her lead (or rather, have her escort us) to find out where to go next.

Things were further complicated by the fact that this happened right after she tried to kill us (via public execution), after which we then put her through a humiliation conga involving petrifying, soap and statue-surfing.

She was pretty much a troll the whole trip, and we couldn't do anything about it (since we'd risk a bossfight and it would be morally unethical).

There's also "Lifeguard", a sailor earth pony NPC who's a pitiful drunkard half the time, and a freaking zombie-shark wrestler whilst (presumably) sober. He was fun.
nekollx 24th Jan 2013, 9:36 AM edit delete reply
nekollx
What if Zocora isn't a NPC. Behind the DM screen is a netbook and Zecoroa is a player doing a remote game and thins the Mane 6 are NPCs...
Digo 24th Jan 2013, 10:16 AM edit delete reply
Remote netmeeting PC? Well that could be interesting. I tried something like that once, but the connection was flakey so I didn't get much of a chance with it.
timemaster 24th Jan 2013, 3:58 PM edit delete reply
That would be brilliant.
Raxon 26th Jan 2013, 2:19 AM edit delete reply
Raxon
I love this concept.
CJT 24th Jan 2013, 9:36 AM edit delete reply
Aside from the elven badass I've mentioned previously, there was the GMPC of the Mekton Zeta campaign.

A lion named Ota ("Go ahead, Ota" was a throwaway line early in the campaign).

He's the ambiguous not-a-villain's right hand man, and secretly the brother of one of the PCs, and probably a few other things by now. Mostly, he's a wiseass, and very very competent when he wants to be.

While he can outdo the PCs, it's usually played for laughs (like most of that campaign).
Innisa 24th Jan 2013, 10:14 AM edit delete reply
Well, my regular DM has a character that pops up every now and again. Jiggaboo the Wizard (highly offensive name, I know). He always knows what do to, has information we need, but if he doesn't feel like it, won't help us out.
(He isn't a Mary Sue - thank god)
However, our DM does take care to make sure that he doesn't appear where it wouldn't make sense (in our Avatar campaign, where the only witches/wizards are tribal doctors)
Kaze Koichi 24th Jan 2013, 10:18 AM edit delete reply
Go to tvtropes.org. Join any game. 90% chance super-competent NPC will be the only one allowed to move the plot around (or in the worst case do anything useful). The most the players can do is to tag along and watch.

Or read DM of the Ring comic.
Digo 24th Jan 2013, 11:48 AM edit delete reply
In my group's current Shadowrun campaign, the team has largely abandoned the original mission we were paid to do (Find incriminating evidence on a bank president) to take up a cause pro bono (stop a cult that's using toys to deliver messages).

My character doesn't feel right abandoning the original mission, so I decide to break off from the team and try to complete the job myself. The GM is fine with this, but he keeps insisting that this one NPC keep following me to help, even though I never tolt the NPC of my intensions and don't want the NPC's help. Yet, the GM won't let ME move the plot. It has to be this tagalong NPC.
Dragonflight 24th Jan 2013, 12:26 PM edit delete reply
Have a word with the GM in private about this. See my post yesterday for what this can lead to. What the GM needs to understand is that if he keeps insisting on using NPC's to effect change, and refuses to let you or your party be the ones that makes things happen, you'll walk. Because you didn't sign up to play the audience in someone else's novel.

I was in a game like that (see yesterday's post for details,) and I put up with it for far longer than I should have. When the party finally kicked back, it killed the whole game, because we were just *soo* fed up with it.

If you take the GM aside and explain these things to them before it gets to that point, you might salvage the game.
Digo 24th Jan 2013, 2:43 PM edit delete reply
No truer advice can really be written... except maybe "Never trust Raxon with a Rod of Wonder".

Another player did suggest a more devious idea-- take the NPC along and use him as my fall-guy for the mission. Breaking into the mansion of a bank president is going to cause all sorts of violence against me and I can use the NPC to take that heat in my place.

Then the GM gets stuck with the dilemma: Either the NPC dies in the fight so the GM can get to me (who will have a head start), or the NPCs succeeds in the fight and I get away (with a head start).
Kaze Koichi 24th Jan 2013, 10:39 PM edit delete reply
Don't you have a problem in case NPC succeeds? Over-competent NPC, doing all work, leave you with nothing to do? The problem this discussion has started with?
Digo 25th Jan 2013, 6:24 AM edit delete reply
I do, but that didn't stop the other player from giving the above suggestion anyway. I'm not likely going to take his suggestion though. :)
Raxon 26th Jan 2013, 2:22 AM edit delete reply
Raxon
But... but...but...

The rod of wonder is what I offer to show young lasses when I make seduction rolls! Don't take that from me!
Ribusprissin 24th Jan 2013, 11:35 AM edit delete reply
I was in a party assaulting a djinn's house, and he had a gargoyle guard. I had a high enough Diplomacy score to get him to start talking. He was complaining about the djinn, how he didn't appreciate the gargoyles work enough. We killed the djinn, turned the gargoyle into an NPC, and gave him control of the house. Since he was an NPC, he could get merchant prices for all our loot so we would return after each adventure to an upgraded house with more servants. 
Flashpoint 24th Jan 2013, 2:06 PM edit delete reply
Question for Spud:

What was the most confusing, complicated, and overall difficult puzzle you've ever seen presented in a tabletop RPG, and how did the players solve it?
Newbiespud 25th Jan 2013, 11:08 AM edit delete reply
Newbiespud
I didn't experience it myself, but I've heard horror stories of Stairc's Torrin Silverfern-themed dungeon...

A little bit of context: Deadly dungeons have been a thing of Stairc's for a while - ever since he and I co-created our first one for the Eberron campaign that I eventually took over. I've been seeing variations on that dungeon ever since (and I've never, ever perfectly solved the variations).

The key to a good death dungeon is abusing information. The players don't know the solution, and will make assumptions about what they see, so take advantage of that. Misdirection and even blatant lies are fair game in a sufficiently deadly dungeon.

So, this Torrin Silverfern dungeon. Every room in it is designed to subvert player expectations. "A magical barrier sphere appears in the center of the room, and you can detect magical energy building up, ready to explode! Oh, you got inside the barrier sphere? You take massive damage! The rest of the room is untouched - the correct answer was to do nothing!"

The entire dungeon is like that, from what I'm told. It even goes meta on itself - if you think there's a pattern from the previous rooms, the next rooms will subvert that too. Set pieces that LOOK scary but do nothing, puzzles that have deceptively simple solutions but kill you on any other solution, and lots of tick-tocking countdowns.

There WAS a running theme of sorts in this dungeon: It was the home base of a guild of thieves/assassins/whatever, but the owner didn't want to put too much effort into bypassing the defenses. So if you knew the solution, it was simple. Otherwise, you were dead.

I'm told the party that ran through it somehow survived, but I don't know how. I think they might've had revival items.
Zuche 24th Jan 2013, 2:20 PM edit delete reply
Never step when you can dance.

Ask Applebloom. She's the arbiter. She knows the score.
Pagannerd 26th Jan 2013, 9:43 AM edit delete reply
But from square one will she be watching all sixty-four?
Akouma 24th Jan 2013, 2:59 PM edit delete reply
Akouma
Ther'Om, the *coughcoughcough*-level Drow Wizard and Reydos, King of the Drow! I've mentioned them, just not by name, a bunch of times.

Ther'Om single-handedly invented a device that allows for infinite-range AND interplanar teleportation, as well as reverse-engineered a way to mass produce the greatest weapon of war under a rival empire they were preparing a war effort against: the golem. The one time he ever joined them on the field of battle, he and the ghost paladin I've mentioned were holding off a horde of demons, with Ther'Om piloting one of those golems, while the PCs ran into the town to take out a demon lord.

Reydos is much less hyper-competent, but he's definitely on the PCs' badass radar. Once, the PCs found a bunch of enemy spies skulking around their army's camp, and when one made a break for it and they asked for someone to get him, Reydos marches out of the officers' tent and guts him, then joins the fray with the remaining spies. After a massive demon invasion of the plane, Reydos got captured, presumed dead, in the aftermath of the initial fighting. The coalition of survivors called themselves "Reydos's Raiders" in his honor (StarCraft references, yay!), so the demons assumed he had something to do with the resistance and start torturing him for information he doesn't have. The PCs wind up going on a rescue mission for him, and put him back on his throne as leader of the coalition since he was actually still stable enough to lead.
Raxon 24th Jan 2013, 4:05 PM edit delete reply
Raxon
Zecora: Time for examination, bend over, be quick.
I'll put on my glove, just pretend it's a-
Pinkie Pie: HOLY POTATOES! THAT'S COLD!
Artsy 24th Jan 2013, 7:23 PM edit delete reply
Honestly, Raxon. There are Non Player Children in the room.
Raxon 24th Jan 2013, 9:15 PM edit delete reply
Raxon
Sorry! I'll stop! I don't wanna scare off potential players!

Hah hah hah, I'm so clever! Look at how clever I am! Being sleep depraved makes me funny! *thud*

But seriously, I'll cut back.I'll try to go for parental bonus type gags rather than outright vulgarity. Subtlety is funnier and I've been without sleep for a few days.

I really, really need to establish sleep habits. Preferably healthy ones. If they're too unhealthy, I may have to grab the gun and take them out behind the-

Oh, the heck with it.
Jesin 24th Jan 2013, 10:29 PM edit delete reply
...
You wrote "depraved" instead of "deprived". Was that intentional? O_o
Digo 25th Jan 2013, 6:26 AM edit delete reply
This being Raxon, probably.
Raxon 25th Jan 2013, 9:15 AM edit delete reply
Raxon
Do you have a better description?
Magnaliscious 24th Jan 2013, 4:48 PM edit delete reply
Well.. there is only 3 of us. so our DM plays a PC. We are playing DnD 3.5, our group consisted a Dragon shaman half-orc (me) a human marshal and a human ranger (the DM). the ranger is normally VERY good at comabt. with "flashbangs" trap goo bags, all the works. on our way to deliver a message to a wizard school because magical travel burns people to a crisp for some reason all of a sudden, during a war. We had to stop by a farm house, the old man who lived in the house tried to enchant the marshal and me and fails. Then a magical inquitsitor comes by who snuck past the borders raided the house for the old man. he brought with him 8 skeltons two goblin archers a orc whom he enlarged and himself. Capable of stopping magic users by counter spelling EVERYTHING. so while the skeletons charged through the front door the ranger goes out the back. headshots the goblin sniper, goes around front to confront the anti-magic user and the ogre sized orc. he gets slammed, hard. but before killing the rest of the goons the anti-magic user brought with him cept the orc, and serverly hurtingthe orc. then my healing arua brings him back and he rolls back inside after using a smoke bomb. he pretty much does stuff throughout the game. cept for this one time... but that's a story for another time.
HSDclover 24th Jan 2013, 5:02 PM edit delete reply
So, in one campaign one of the players had a person who had hired them at the start of the campaign. Now, this person was just supposed to be a drug addict rich guy with no real redeeming qualities.

Except, when the deal gets interrupted by an all out assault on the city by kobolds, this guy just shows up the player, entirely by accident.

I don't feel like going into too much detail, but I think it is more satisfactory to leave it with this character got nicknamed "Druggy McStaberson"
Giggle Tail 24th Jan 2013, 5:31 PM edit delete reply
Giggle Tail
Remember my story about the cleric NPC a few pages back? Yeah, him.

Also, before him we had a warforged wizard NPC in the party. He was built to just give us amazing buffs and not contribute too much otherwise. However, for some odd reason the DM had an amazing streak of luck with rolling critical hits with his quarter staff really often.

It got to the point where I was often asking the wizard if I could borrow the thing. Especially after he nearly beheaded a boss (only failed because the DM refused to count the roll and steal our thunder).
Qazarar 24th Jan 2013, 7:34 PM edit delete reply
In the early parts of our 3.5 campaign, our group of level 1 PCs needed some help to clear a dungeon, so one player hired a few cheap mercenaries. Our DM roleplayed them as throwaway NPCs at first, and they were for the most part ignored. Except for one of them who was slightly more interesting, and came into his own as a proper NPC during some roleplaying. We named the NPC Fred, and decided we were going to bring him along. Since he was going to actually fight as a more lasting member of the team, the DM decided to make an actual character sheet for Fred. The really cool part came when he rolled up his stats: Four 18s, a 17, and a 15. This was shocking enough, and we started joking a bit about how awesome Fred was. When it came time for the next combat, however, he proved that he was up to it, and the first attack resulted in two crits. From then on, Fred was essentially the most lethal character in our group. He still is today.
Adviserman 24th Jan 2013, 8:19 PM edit delete reply
Most of the my super-competent NPCs tend to be more of the Gandalf, disappear when you need them variety. The last one I would call super-competent would be from the weird superhero game I just recently finished running. Zebranurse started life as the sidekick to Zebraman, but that didn't last long. As soon as I got a hold of her she became the ultra scary voice of reason to those super-weirdos known as the Justice Network. It probably didn't help that her first introduction to the team was their destruction of her and Zebraman's apartment. Between Thorn (super Zebraman fanboy with thorn and burrowing powers) diving out their 35th story window, Dark Spire quaking in fear, and Cyromorph (crazy Russian-Ice-Wolf-Hulk) sitting their refrigerator playing with the olives, they didn't exactly start off on the right foot with her.

As the name suggests she was the teams medic and sometimes science officer. The amount of times I had her miraculously heal someone because of someone's awesome plan could fill a book in itself (and I still manage to permanently retire some of these "heroes").

Probably what solidified her status was when she pretty much took down Cyromorph during one his rages when no else had any good idea what to do. (Think a Hulk that turned into a giant ice wolf when inflicted with pain instead of rage. Yeah I had "fun" with that character.) One giant syringe of knock out juice and we had a sleeping naked crazy Russian instead of a rampaging ice wolf.

Of course my favorite moment with her was of course the moment they couldn't reach her. I was preparing a storyline based on the Serpentor arc from the old G.I. Joe cartoon and needed her gone so that players had to figure out what going on themselves. The look of terror on everyone's face when the couldn't reach her, warmed my cold GM heart for bit. Then the revelation about her and Zebraman was fun as well, but that might be a story for another time.
Grrys 24th Jan 2013, 10:47 PM edit delete reply
I'm running the Dungeon of Graves. The inn the party uses is run by an epic level paladin/gunslinger. Level 40 total.

He could quite possibly solo the dungeon, and he just sits there, running his inn, flaunting expensive magical items in front of the party. He's also older than some elves, which he isn't.
aylatrigger 25th Jan 2013, 12:00 AM edit delete reply
In a game of Big Eyes Small Mouth set in an alternate version of Cold War Cleveland (World War 2 ended early due to powerful magical girls... Who were basically nukes.) I had an NPC who was a highly intelligent thief/magical girl/shapeshifter infiltrator. While she was not too good at fighting, she managed to read the mind of the party's depressed veteran half-dragon. She then managed to shapeshift into a half-dragon form, convince him that she was the daughter of him and his ex, who had turned out to be a shapeshifter Russian spy. While he was suspicious and had her DNA tested, he had it tested by our timetraveler mercenary's sentient computer...Which means that people with universal mind control powers could control the computer. As even before the players had told me their characters I had made the NPC have universal mind control powers just so she could brain-hack into AIs, she hacked in and falsified the data, making the DNA test show that she was his daughter. Sadly, we stopped the game before she was found out.

And the NPC was at the same points level of the characters despite being able to completely infiltrate their group easily.
aylatrigger 25th Jan 2013, 12:08 AM edit delete reply
In my ponyfinder games I tend to have high level NPCs due to based off the show, some babies have shown to be about 20th level. My reasoning as well is that even after saving Equestria in the first season, the main characters were not well known. As the most entertaining reason, I had 'save the world' adventures happen often enough that it's just not that big news. Thus, many of the ponies are high level, even if they don't show this ability.

Some specific ones:
The Dread Pirate Buttercup, a 40th level earth pony (20 corsair/10 rogue/7 sea reaver/3 shackles pirate) based off of PPG and The Princess Bride.
The Crimson Vision, an earth pony hero who everyone assumes is a superhero, but is really just based off Kamina. 50th level, but I had not written out his character sheet...
aylatrigger 25th Jan 2013, 12:30 AM edit delete reply
On the other hand, a pathfinder game I DMed for had the most incompetent NPC, but not in the way of usual NPC incompetence. The PCs were for the most part students failing a language class taught by one of the PCs. My GMPC was the TA, a depressed wu jen warforged with only one or two languages less than the teacher (we both basically got all traits and language feats we could. We each had like 15 languages). The rest of the party was first given the task of writing up a report about languages used in the city. I informed them that the city had a massive temple district, as it included a temple to every god in the pantheons...including D&D gods, 2 pantheons I created, one pantheon my brother created, and the tv tropes pantheon (they had a magical skyscraper). All temples had priests that spoke any native languages of the culture or race that follows the god as well as common, except the priest to the god Bahgtru. Bahgtru is the orc god of strength, loyalty and....stupidity. I am not making this up. So I said his temple did not have anyone who could speak common.
So obviously the party chose to go there, despite none of them knowing orc. The player who had the teacher helped me roleplay 'Orc', the high priest of Bahgtru. Orc had an intelligence of 1. He was literally stupid enough to bend reality, and did so multiple times throughout the adventure. When they first met Orc, he chased them out by throwing a teapot at them (CE...). Later on they went to the merchant guild and the guild leader tried to buy their organs. After they had refused and were leaving, Orc came in, had negotiations to sell his kidney with a pillar, got a bad deal on it, and then tried to cut his kidney out by stabbing his eye with the handle of his knife. As the party proceeded, we kept bringing in Orc at random times. He became a group project, an NPC so stupid he required 4 people to play him. He was a 20th level character while the rest of the party was 1st level, but in interacting with the PCs he couldn't physically hurt them out of sheer stupidity. The worst he did was after all the characters had passed out, he used his priest status to marry the teacher to his stalker student (NPC), the warforged to a barbarian toaster with the personality of GlaDOS (who was supposed to be somewhat his 'incompetent double'. As barbarians have +10 ft movement, the toaster could charge, but this would unplug her), and the bard was married to Orc...
So in some ways he was so incompetent that he was competent, and in other ways he was so competent that he was incompetent. We ruled all the levels it took for him to be powerful enough to be the high priest of Bahgtru were from roleplaying exp.
Teller 25th Jan 2013, 4:47 AM edit delete reply
have a game of Path finder and DnD 3.5 in progress with the same group of folks. WE often use old player characters or characters whose player not there for the session as NPC. we've had them summon portals on accident, break continents, save our butts fighting the boss.. i suppose you would say the characters tend to try and clean the players mess rather then the players baby sitting the NPCs
LoganAura 25th Jan 2013, 9:05 AM edit delete reply
LoganAura
My only uber-competent NPCs are 1.) God equivilants, even then they're not really competent >_> 2.) Arcana- a seer- who's recently... Not so competent.
I also like Gabriel from my Fusion campaigns, but he's uber INcompetent.
aylatrigger 25th Jan 2013, 10:02 PM edit delete reply
"Remember, he has at least one weakness- He's a god, so he must be overconfident." -my brother from a 2nd edition game
Vinom 25th Jan 2013, 10:45 AM edit delete reply
I, as a DM had one "Hyper-competent NPC. The party never seemed to hire anyone and, besides one stint in a PC's hometown, never showed emotional connection to anything. So I introduced Ricco. Ricco was a wolfkin boy who was orphaned in a hydra attack. He was originally there for local flavor, and for helping the party through the woods cause they lost their druid and rogue recently and none of the PCs were competent trackers any more.
During the climactic battle with the Shadow Creature Hydra, the party tank cleric gives it a massive blow and it's at one hit points. Next on the initiative is Ricco, who charges the thing with a torch and gets the killing blow. The party take a shine to Ricco and eventually decide to take him with them. While I'm deciding what to do with the kid, the Wizard, the Battle Sorcerer and the Prestige Cleric all begin to train him in their brand of magic.
Ricco eventually became an Artificer, who liked to dual wield a short sword and a wand. Over the rest of the campaign he got more killing blows than most of the rest of the party, including but not limited to three dream-dragons, a Blinkdog-Displacer hybrid and Anti-paladin... this was supposed to be the kid that gets kidnapped and provokes a rescue mission.
Mr. Brony 26th Jan 2013, 12:57 AM edit delete reply
This was a bad case of the DM trying to still find a way to play the game. We were on this grand mission to do some such nonsense, I don't even remember, and we made our way to the house of the DMs old player characters that were now function as NPCs. The DM regailed us with all their amazing abilities and strengths (one chick could shoot arrows through a mountain, one guy was so good at sword fighting he could probably outfence a god, etc., etc.,) Turns out that instead of it being just a fun bit of self-indulgence. He started working his characters into the game narrative, thereby allowing the DM to play his old characters again, except at ridiculously high levels and with DM foreknowledge of events. And he would try to pull this same thing AGAIN in another game with different circumstances.
...
We don't play with that DM anymore.
Nighzmarquls 26th Jan 2013, 1:15 PM edit delete reply
So faerun game, and due to drama from one of the players who ABSOLUTELY had to BE a temple raider of Olidimara.

Olidimara was an up and coming ascending god.

But a very small one.

At the start I think there were only three devout worshipers including our cleric(the temple raider).

So we pretty much had direct comunication with a GOD.

And he sent us off to raid temples and steal stuff and generally play jokes on one another.

It was kind of like being the minions of discord.

I loved that game!

Its the one where I played the inexplicably lucky Green Dragon Wyrmling.

Whom would be resurected by every god that some one prayed too.

Every single time thanks to lucky percentile roles.

Also olidimara was so amused by our hijinx with ONE deck of many things he gave us two more to see what stupidity we would get up too.

My dragon got kidnapped by nightwalkers and taken to gehenna.
Nighzmarqul 26th Jan 2013, 1:28 PM edit delete reply
And then there was old bill.

One piece home brew game.

Old bill was literally named by me off the cuff randomly roleplaying the phrase "hey bill!"

when we got to a bar I supposedly had been going to for years at the edge of the southern continent.

Old bill ended up being the source of our first boat and he had nothing but salt and porridge on board (his qoute "this porridge is ugly").

We go and fight on a crazy island, get a magical boat and only THEN do we discover that old bill is the logia of SALT.

He turns people into salt.

and then puts them on his porridge.

The crates of salt in his boat became a very disturbing concept.

However he was eventually overshadowed by the insane crow made of ART.

It was glorious.
DCHorror 26th Jan 2013, 9:59 PM edit delete reply
I had a good one. I made a character to hire the party to do things. Ostensibly, I made him to gear up the party if I felt they were a little lacking or to help out if the party was having a string of bad luck.

Mostly, this was because the week before, the entire party kept rolling ones while facing a zombie and a skeleton.

However, after explaining why they now had an NPC traveling with them, I promptly forgot that there was indeed an NPC a level higher than the party traveling with them.

Until one of the party members asked why Xerric was sitting over in the corner while the rest of the party was risking their lives fighting a gargoyle. So, in response, Xerric threw a spell infused card(I was testing a homebrew class) at the gargoyle, which whipped past its head and fizzled harmlessly against the wall. In all honesty, in front of my players, I rolled a 2 for that attack role.

But, after the fight, Xerric was the one who ended up solving the magic puzzle, because that was my party that the only arcane character anyone rolled was a bard, and he did it to turn a rope into a snake after setting it on fire with a lantern.
Alleghast 27th Jan 2013, 5:28 PM edit delete reply
For me well I wised upafter a particular incident with a BGC Fuzion character never ever EVER used him again.

Also me personally. My dice luck is either abysmal or insane. A GM I know said that if the dice-gods ever decided to average it out over a whole campaign my characters would be terrifying but what tends to happen is I get a string of critical failures followed by a string of impossible successes. DMs live in fear of my combat characters ever hitting anything because a critical strike is likely to follow. But that will also be the entirety of my campaign luck until the next adventure ><
Flashpoint 29th Jan 2013, 7:17 AM edit delete reply
Flashpoint
I don't have a story about super-competent NPC, so I'll share one about an extremely incompetent player. This particular game only had 2 PCs so it was a bit slow, but the characters balanced each other fairly nicely in theory. One was a magic bard, not entirely sure what he was about, I just knew he had a lot of magic, a staff, had a fairly high intelligence stat and called himself a bard. The other was a derp ranger, with really low intelligence and had about average common sense. Can you guess which one was extremely incompetent?

In the game they played the story involved a number of difficult trials that each tested something different. I only witnessed the first two, but they were so hilarious. The first was a test of strength, agility, and combat prowess. The PCs were presented with an obstacle course made of floating platforms. This course required them to make relatively long (but not impossible) jumps and scale 20 feet tall walls. At first it looked easy. Thats when the border warping giant centipede came in. It could spawn a portal in front of it at will, and open an exit portal anywhere else within 200 meters of the entrance, and it could essentially fly. This thing could come from nowhere with the momentum of a freight train (hence we named it the "Train of Pain"). They managed to get to the end without getting too banged up though, but at the end the centipede appeared and stood in front them, guarding the exit. This is where the combat prowess test began, and where everything went horribly stupid. The first thing the centipede did was shoot a web at the mage-bard. He failed the save and was immobilized from the waist down. He has a knife, and he has fire magic. What does he decide to do? Hits it with his staff. So he's there, banging away on the webbing with a blunt object while the ranger solos the centipede, and when I say solo I mean he just keeps dodging it because it won't give him an opportunity for a good shot. Eventually the centipede gets fed up with trying to hit the ranger and tries to go for the captured bard. The ranger takes this opening and takes a shot at its head, and critical one shots it. Afterwards he reminds the trapped guy that he has a knife to cut himself free. And this was just the beginning.
Flashpoint 29th Jan 2013, 7:18 AM edit delete reply
Flashpoint
The second test was a test of will and intellect. They get dropped into a dungeon with absolutely no light. They literally cannot see anything further than a few inches ahead. So the bard asks the ranger "You have any torches?" To which the response is no, there are no torches. So after about five minutes of the mage trying to come up with some kind of fancy and complicated way to make light, the ranger asks "Doesn't your staff catch fire?"

Cue impromptu magic torch. After awhile they figure out they're in a maze. There are no walls, and the ceiling is too far up for them to see. I won't bore you with all the details so I'll try to summarize. It was a sort of portal puzzle dealing with a clock face in a circular maze. There are 12 portals, and if you step through one, you come out on the exact opposite side of the maze. The exit is made known by a lone platform with no obvious way to reach it, and its surrounded by a powerful magic barrier. So to reach it, they obviously have to go through the portal on the opposite side. Problem is, that particular portal happens to be destroyed. The hint they get is a journal found near the destroyed portal that explains, if I remember this correctly: "If I step through a portal, I move to the mirrored side, but if step through the same portal thrice, I find myself 3 hours hence." What this means is that to reach the exit (in the 7 position on a clock) they had to go through the portal in the 4 position 3 times in row. Now I'll explain the problems that were had.

The bard for one kept trying to more or less cheat the puzzle and do it without using the portals. At first he tried using an alter self spell to give himself wings, and then fly to the exit. The DM said he couldn't use it due to the symbol in the center of the chamber draining magic away if he tried to gather too much of it. He also threw in the barrier thing at this time, just in case. The second idea the bard tried was even more hilarious. He decided to take the rangers pick and broke a few chunks of the symbol in the center out. He then emptied his bag and gave that stuff to the ranger, and filled his bag with magic draining rocks. He ties a rope to the handle and then takes it to the barrier, ties the other end of the rope around his waist and has the ranger throw the bag at the barrier to see if the rocks can break it. Not a bad idea really, until the result happened. The bag smacked into the barrier and stuck for a few seconds. The barrier grew dimmer just a bit, but the back started to slide down the side, and then it just let go and fell into the abyss below them, weighed down by rocks saturated by about 30 pounds of magic. Guess who tied himself to this bag. He barely managed to keep himself from falling, but he lost the bag and the rope.

Even when they found the journal and got the hint, they still didn't figure it out. At least the bard didn't, because he didn't share any info with the ranger so he couldn't help. Eventually, the ranger figures it out himself without the hint through random expirimentation. All in all this puzzle took them about 4 hours. And all the while, the DM just kept smiling because he didn't even need to do much of anything.
HeartlessKatana 4th Feb 2013, 10:57 PM edit delete reply
I once had a player who took Undead Leadership, giving him a fairly powerful NPC vampire friend. Through sheer luck, the vampire managed to use her whip to trip a dragon made entirely out of lava. I allowed it to happen due to the absolute absurdity of it.