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Round-robin storytelling has been around for a while, and something I have always been interested in experimenting with a variation of DM'ing where players take turns becoming the DM in the same campaign and storyline.

Without proper planning, this could be very chaotic and not very satisfying, however.

What are some methods for switching up who is the DM in the same game? I know this is an odd approach, but something myself and friends would like to try. Are there any resources for this out there? Have you tried this already? Important items I want to consider:

  • What happens to a player's PC when the player becomes DM?
  • Which PC does the last DM get when a new DM steps up?
  • How to encourage working together and building off of past DM efforts?
  • How to discourage sabotaging each DM's efforts and DM decisions that will mostly benefit the PC that DM will later regain control of?
  • Anything else you think is important to consider here.

Thanks for any help!

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Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/22584/… –  mxyzplk Mar 8 '13 at 13:04
    
Is this actually a system-agnostic question? (I have an answer that's ideal for games that don't involve cohesive adventuring parties looking for treasure. This question was originally marked AD&D and uses "DM" throughout, so I am wondering whether my answer is suitable for this question.) –  Alex P Mar 24 at 15:42
    
@AlexP I originally intended this question specifically for rotating DMs in AD&D. As a system-agnostic question, it is very similar to the related question mxyzplk commented with above. Should this question be limited to AD&D and tags changed to reflect such, merged to the system-agnostic question linked above, or other? I would be interested in your unique answer regardless. I can also edit GM in to replace DM and make it more clear that this question accepts system-agnostic answers. Not sure the best route for this SE's purpose, advice appreciated. –  James Broyles Mar 24 at 19:27
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

We have been doing jam sessions for a while now, and this is how we handled it:

1) PCs or players currently GMing effectively become NPCs. They travel with the group and stay in the background (maybe find some other things to do) until the player takes over again.

2) Every player has his personal character, so every GM will always eventually return to play his own PC again.

3) Building bigger stories can be more difficult than shorter segments and one shots. I recently opened a question concerning this here.

4) Why should people do that? This never was an issue. It just worked out, the same way PCs don't generally work against each other as the players want to have fun as a group.

Two points that might be interesting:

We mostly distributed EXP equally. Our rationale: the GMs PC took part as an NPC (up to a degree) and thus receives the same amount as any other PC. This is also to avoid GMing becoming less liked by players who would rather advance their PC.

We recently started RPG jamming using pre-written quest jam cards: each little card contains:

  • the action the PCs are expected to do
  • the location
  • the weather/environment
  • an important encounter
  • the reward for doing said action.

At the beginning of a jam session each player-GM would draw one or two cards, containing a quest each. Whoever thought he had a good idea to work with would start with his quest and develop a story. Other GMs would take over with their card/quest either once the first GM is done or as a temporary interlude during some other GMs segment.

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We used to do that a lot in a group we had. They weren't any rules at all, simply one came with an idea for an adventure and took control of the game, when other's adventure was finished.

For more ideas, take a look to Ars Magica's troupe roleplay, or this comment.

Now, answering your questions:

1- It depends on the situation. I usually prefer to retire temporally the current GM's character with some excuse (I'll check how my wife and kids are doing). Sometimes that isn't possible (for instance, if the last adventure left the characters lost in the jungle). So you'd have to treat your character as a NPC companion. Just try to be fair.

2- The one that has a cool idea for the next adventure(*).

3- Just talk it. You're supposed to share the same objective, so that should be enough incentive. You could also make an informal evaluation at the end of each adventure to see how is it going as a global campaign.

4- Same as above. If a player is as immature as to persist in such behaviour (after several talks), just let him out of the game, or do not allow him to GM again. If there are several players doing this, you should abort the idea, and go with one GM. Without trust this can't be done.

5- As said before, trust is everything. If a player can't be fair it doesn't make sense that he is a GM. Talk a lot about it. Make sure everyone is on the same page, and aiming for fun, not just up-levelling and maximizing their characters.

(*) Technically not round-robin, I know.

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1- IMO, it's always worth temporarily retiring the GMs character if at all possible (maybe incapacited by illness). It's very difficult not to subconsciously favour your character; even more difficult not to be thought to do so. –  TimLymington Mar 9 '13 at 18:54
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