Looking for: GMPC

The other day I was trying to brainstorm how I could convey a concept I have for a game into actual mechanics and, at some point, I found myself thinking “The only way to get across the same vibe as the inspiration source… would be to have a GMPC” but, in all honesty, the only game that I know of that has a GMPC actually included in the game mechanics, is Ryuutama.

Are there any other TTRPG out there that also have a GMPC actually written into the mechanics of the system?

Mission givers tend to be like these, except they don’t intervene mid-game (but Dragons in Ryu Utama don’t do it much neither).
All GMful games, and many games with multiple GMs have these, but that’s probably not what you want.
But this leads to the underlying question: what do you expect a GM to be. It’s a bunch of functions stacked together, so what functions would be significant for your project?

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I watched someone playtest my game and (as expected) it didn’t convey the vibe I wanted it too so I immediately started listing a few mechanics the game needs but, at the same time, I felt like something would still be missing so I asked myself: “What makes this source material in particular different from other movies/games of the same genre?” and I realized it’s two things: a differentiation between “party spotlight” vs “single player spotlight” (which some players tend to avoid because of the “never split the party” trope) and… commentary.

The game (based on the Sly Cooper videogames) is about a group of thieves and one of the things that set it apart from me is the game has these cutscenes before each heist where one of the characters (the Brains) explains to the other members of the game how the heist will work (who their target is, what their weaknesses might be, if they need more info, etc) and after each heist where one of the gang members summarizes how the mission went.

  • post-heist cutscenes: here (narrated mostly by the Thief)
  • pre-heist cutscenes: here and here part 1 / part 2 (narrated mostly by the Brains).
    PS: Characters can communicate remotely with any member of the gang, not just with Bentley (which is nice, never know if you’ll need to ask the getaway driver to come pick you up because you rolled a nat 1 xD)

Including some rules saying that each character needs to have at least a solo mission before 2+ characters have a mission together, is not hard. As it’s not hard to include rules saying that, after each heist, a player (doesn’t matter which one) will do a montage of how things went.
The problem I’m having is with the montage that happens before each heist. I thought about it also being done by any players, but only the Brains is supposed to know what the others need to do, and that is typically a decision the GM does since they’re the ones doing the worldbuilding.

The alternative I thought of was that the GMPC would only be a narrator (eg. an employer that gives them the missions but doesn’t actually go on the job with them) but, as much as that would work from a rules point of view, it wouldn’t be loyal to the source, as Bentley also goes on jobs with the rest of the gang… and I sort of also kinda want to break the taboo around GMs having characters of their own.

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I mostly focus on GMless games, but the first idea that comes to my mind is that of Covers in Feathered adventures, (and in a way Goals in Torchbearer), or Headlights in… idk, maybe it’s just a technique. They work a bit like O’Leary’s CATS: at the beginning of the game, each player asks for one thing they would like to see. Maybe they won’t get exactly what they ask for, but the group is now navigating the story towards these things (a valuable compass for GMless games).
Of course, if “levels” are strictly designed, you need to frame these Headlights firmly. But that’s still possible: each character could ask for a “spotlight moment” according to their specialty.
That’s how I would do it anyway.
That does nothing against the taboo, though.

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WyrdScouts is a game designed to be played with kids. In it, the kids are the titular WyrdScouts, the standard PC type. Any adults playing the game play as their talking animal companions that can give aid and advice, but aren’t really effective on their own. It’s a pretty clever setup for a game like that.

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Carnivalesque game-status (the first will be the last, the last will be the first) is super cool! Status games make good dramatic engines (however auxiliary)!

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