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This question gave me some ideas regarding my current gaming group. I was introduced to D&D roughly a year ago before graduation, so shortly after getting into it everyone involved went separate ways. Recently I proposed playing D&D with some friends and it's been going pretty well. Because I was the only one familiar with the game it seemed appropriate that I become GM. I'm not opposed to this, but I'm unable to get my RP fix in my current position.

We're only a few sessions in at this point, and I'm currently leading everyone through the first module of The Sunless Citadel series. We're almost done with the first module, and I'm wondering if one of the players in the group who has really gotten into the game would want to start their own campaign. Would it be easy to switch about every five sessions from one campaign to the next within the same group, with each GM overseeing their campaign exclusively?

Each block of the campaigns would be self contained, say on average five sessions long, containing a beginning, middle, and end. This would allow closure before the switch. There would be an overarching story(in mine at least), but each block would be separate enough to feel like we weren't stopping in the middle of something or leaving anything unfinished.

Would this work? I've talked to the person and they liked the idea, but are there problems I could run into I don't realize? This all assumes the other person makes a competent GM. Thoughts?

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This feels like it's inviting discussion, but --aside from the invitation for "thoughts" at the end-- I can't quite put my finger on exactly how to tighten it up. So I'm not voting to close, just leaving this comment, because I may be wrong. –  BESW Mar 26 at 0:18

5 Answers 5

I think it really depends on the players.

I tried something similar with two different groups, and it worked like a charm with one and made everything messy with another.

The biggest problem you could encounter (IMHO) is the fact that every GM have a personal style for managing his campaign: storytelling, rules management, XP allocation, combat/non-combat scenes balance, more or less connecting plot details going through story arcs... Everything can be different, and frequent changes can be seen as a good way of make everything less boring, or just an annoying change of cozy habits.

Try to talk to your players about that, and if you feel that you could like the continuous campaign changes, give it a try. My experience says that it's something uncommon and that usually players DO likes the continuity given by a single GM, but you could actually enjoy that.

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In my experience (I've co-GM'd a few games in my short time with RPGs), having multiple GMs can be a problem if one of those GMs' wanting to be a player is a priority for them compared to GM'ing itself (which it sounds like it is). As you are the most familiar with D&D, be prepared to stay in the GM role for awhile even if you prefer being a player (which again, is what it sounds like). If you feel like you can persuade your friend to GM in alternating sessions or sets, then by all means go ahead. However, it sounds like your friend is still comparatively new to D&D and my first thought would be that if they wanted to GM they would have already asked or suggested this. Be aware that though they might like being on the Player side of the table, GM'ing might not be a good fit for them and you risk putting them off or having them be Player only forever after.

You also mention that you're assuming they end up being a competent GM. This is a big red flag for me personally. If you've never played under them and you haven't seen any signs in their play that you would consider GM material, it's going to be an issue down the line if you don't get the Player experience you desire. They may actually take cues from your GM'ing but they will likely have their own way of GM'ing and herein lies the biggest issues with co-GM'ing: people are different. Apart from mechanical and setting considerations -- which are honestly trivial to this -- if you two are not on the same page when it comes to GM'ing style, you're likely going to find that this endeavor does not go the way you expected or wanted. Additionally, it sounds like you essentially want a clone who takes over the reins and then you return to the role once you've had your fix. That's not going to happen.

Best bet is to start sharing your campaign notes and setting details alongside any mechanical adjustments or custom rules you've made with your friend and drop hints along the way about how you want their time in the GM chair to go. Sit down with them and be explicit about what you want and what you expect out of the game -- expect the same from them and encourage them to do so too. You've gotta be open about this. Plan out the campaign with them: think of yourself like the captain of the table and they're your lieutenant, if it helps. Be active with this. Run through scenarios outside of the game and mentor them on GM'ing as you know and understand it -- this can be the big thing that helps keep the GM'ing style consistent and means you get the Player experience you're looking for. Treat them like they were your twin.

I wish you the best of luck in getting this to work -- Lord knows it can be hard work to get it there but it can be a blast if you manage it.

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I always played in groups where (virtually) everyone was a DM, the biggest issue that happened was not deciding exactly who would be the DM for a particular meeting. Usually the problem goes like this:

"I thought Bob was the DM" said Alice, "I thought Alice was the DM" said Bob.

On the flip side, because we knew the structure wasn't rigid more often than not folks that were better prepared for that day would jump in and be the DM.

I don't know what is the best (if a unbreakable schedule or completely wild), but for sure the feeling of never having a story finishing was never a problem, and the stories and characters were always so nice that we never suffered of continuity problems. Of course we would forget things from one game to the other, but that was a perfect moment for the DM to rewrite the most convenient version of the facts.

In the end of the day, the best games were DMed by the most prepared folks. Sometimes when the DM was new we would have two different games on the same days, with the most experienced DM as the last one.

CatLord mentioned the issues of using the same locations when two DM's are preparing the adventure. My group found extremely entertaining to receive quests from more powerful characters that at that moment were NPC's (therefore role played by the DM), and myself as a DM always thought easier to use these characters as they are already created to its fullest so I could concentrate on the other parts of the adventure.

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The most biggest issues I see are mostly related to continuity and prominence of magic. Personally I tend to DM low treasure/magic item adventures to keep less magical vocations relevant where another DM I know sometimes lets us choose which magic items we "randomly" find if he likes our RP enough. I've also been in worlds where a +2 sword is as good as a butter knife because of insane opposition. I truly think it might be best if the two campaigns aren't in the same setting while your player finds a groove (should they even want to take the leap just yet). More than St0rM's answer to talk to your players, talk to your fellow DM and see what NPCs, PCs, and locations they will expect to use. If they overlap, you two have to collaborate on what is within bounds for use between the two of you.

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I'm in a gaming group where we have been playing in the same campaign for close to 20 years now (D&D 2ed to 3e, 3.5e and now Pathfinder). There are several of us in the group that have run as DM on a more or less rotating basis as we have gone. Each DM essentially runs a module , which may or may not involve existing characters, new characters, or a mix of old and new. It's not every few weeks switch (we play weekly). It usually ends up being every 3 to 6 months that it switches.

This seems to work very well for us, though it sometimes is difficult to transition between each DM's playing style. The only exception to this pattern is that most years we pause around Halloween while one of our party runs a 3-5 week Call of Cthulu campaign. This also adds a good break to the pattern each year.

So really it's up to your group's style. Our style works well for us. The main DM of the group runs/controls the main campaign storyline/plot and the rest of us who DM run side plots and stories that fit in to the overall campaign but really don't have a lot of influence or affect on the main plotline.

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