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I'm new to Dungeons and Dragons, having played only 3 games as a DM with a group of friends. Initially, it was difficult to find people to play, but now I've run into the problem where too many people want to play.

I'm scheduled to DM tomorrow for a group of 6 players, and I don't think that I can handle that with my limited experience.

Is it a good idea to have two players play as one character? If so, how would that work? If anyone has any insight on this, I would greatly appreciate it.

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What do you think could go wrong if you DM a group of 6 players/characters? – Flamma Jan 18 at 1:38
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Welcome to the site. Take the tour. An interesting first question. Thank you for your participation and have fun. – Hey I Can Chan Jan 18 at 2:10
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How many of the players have experience with the game? – KorvinStarmast Jan 18 at 2:46
    
Having players share characters would probably make DMing more difficult for you, not less. – Moyli Jan 19 at 11:15
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Does the character have multiple personality? :)) – zozo Jan 19 at 12:01
up vote 35 down vote accepted

Two players could play one character, but probably it would be too boring.

They could agree all the character's action, and they could take turns when role playing him. But that would be less interesting and exciting than having one character. Also, it can lead to discussions when the two players are agreeing what to do, so the game can be even slower than if any of them have one character.

In my experience, six players is a big group, things are going to be slow, but it's still a manageable number. I think it's best to have such a big group than having them share characters.

Another option could be instead of sharing characters, sharing the GM position. You could ask one player to help you with the GMing. Then, if you are playing a combat, he can control some of the monsters. You could even split the party and make the auxiliary GM guide some of the players and you the rest.

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Nice answer. An interesting idea on how to play one character as two if you really want to is the following: Make the character schizophrenic and the two players each have a different personality (goals, memories etc.) for the character. Then they could role for themselves to decide every ten minutes or so who can control him. That way the 2 player idea could be combined with the storyline. – Numrok Jan 18 at 13:32
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For the record though your usage of the word is relatively common this is not what schizophrenic means. " Despite the origin of the term, from Greek skhizein, meaning "to split", and phrēn, meaning "mind", schizophrenia does not imply a "split personality" or "multiple personality disorder" — a condition with which it is often confused in public perception." - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia . – Chris Jan 18 at 16:06
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Dissociative identity disorder is the one you'll be thinking of: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissociative_identity_disorder . But I would strongly advise not calling it that either since most people don't really know what it is and how it works and thus are not likely to treat it with the sensitivity and understanding that should be applied to real world disabilities. Instead just describe the practical effects as a new thing without equating it to any real world issue. – Chris Jan 18 at 16:10
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And sorry for the multi-comment response. Mental health issues in roleplaying is something of a thing for me. :) – Chris Jan 18 at 16:10
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@Chris If you hadn't said anything, I would have :) – Jason_c_o Jan 19 at 0:56

Possibly but this is unlikely to solve your problem.

The problem is that the players are the ones playing the game and no matter how you structure this there are 6 players wedged into the same amount of playing time. In theory this means that each player gets 33% less time to play than in a 4 player game, however, in practice it is much more complicated than this due to group dynamics, personalities and the nature of the play itself.

What follows is my personal observation of how my players play the game (your mileage may differ). There are basically 3 modes of play:

  1. Tactical play - This occurs in situations of imminent danger including but not limited to combat. Each player is deciding their character's individual actions under time pressure, usually taking turns. The more creatures there are the longer this takes - this includes PCs, NPCs and monsters.
  2. Adventuring play - This occurs when the characters are acting as a group, not taking individual actions that need resolution. One player usually takes the lead in deciding the action for the group; which player depends on what is going on, exploration of a dungeon may be led by the rogue's player, wilderness travel may be led by the ranger's player and role-playing may be led by the sorcerer's player. Other player's provide input and can veto the actions of the leader. Things are happening in the game world but those things are not applying urgency to the play; when they do you switch into Tactical play. The pace of this mode of play is largely independent of the number of creatures or players.
  3. Planning play - This occurs when there is nothing going on in the game world; the player's are plotting their next move. Planning can range from grand strategy for world domination to working out how they are going to cross the river in front of them. If you can walk away from the table without affecting the play then we are in this mode. It is important to allow the player's to plan but it is also important to tell them when it is time to act or you can end up in analysis paralysis. The game world is not exerting any pressure but the real world is. The more players there are the longer this takes.

Every group and every player in each group differs on how much time they like to spend in each phase but every group must spend some time in each. Depending on how you game is balanced; player's playing one character may speed things up a lot or a little but the trade off is that player's sharing a character will have less investment in that character.

You would be better off making sure that you have a solid structure to your tactical play phase. Conflict is meant to be quick and exciting and you can reinforce this by running combat crisply and efficiently see The Angry DM's post How to Manage Combat Like a M*********ing Dolphin.

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I found your detailed answer to contain a lot of useful information, especially the article you linked to at the end. I feel more confident now, thanks you. – Neutrino Jan 18 at 9:08

Having players sharing a character something I might think a highly experienced GM might be able to hazard a middling job at handling.

For a new GM, I'd have to say no freaking way.

It will be much easier, and much more interesting for your players, to play one per character, even if the group was large enough to be unwieldy.

I'd suggest you instead organize things to reduce the load of dealing with so many players.

This includes things like

  • have them choose a party leader. In situations where they must make quick decisions, that person's word is what you take, and that person is the one you deal with. Allow only fairly limited discussion in media res. [If they want to have an extended planning meeting about who is doing what, then they can but time marches on ... they might lose initiative, or even miss their whole turn (you were so busy talking the goblins got tired of waiting).]

    They can change leaders in non-crisis situations but not in the middle of combat.

  • push as much bookkeeping as possible onto them -- e.g. have them write down marching/traveling order and who keeps watch when (vs who sleeps or whatever - so you know who is where all the time). They can have several ("In the wilderness we do this, indoors or underground we do that, in the town we do the other", overnight we do thus and so) as long as it's always clear which order/list they're using. The leader should be able to answer your questions about who is doing what at any moment during combat (i.e. let him or her keep the pieces of paper to do with the party).

  • If players really want to do something "out of the ordinary", well, they have to wait until you've dealt with the main group and they can't make everyone wait for very long (unless you deal with it in a break in play in which case several minutes on one player might be doable)

  • reduce combat size by having fewer opponents (but correspondingly tougher ones) rather than lots.

  • make sure you have your encounters prepared - stats and equipment and tactics all organized, NPC personalities/names/habits of speech etc, how they'll respond to violence/threats/bribes/gifts/free drinks or whatever as appropriate to the situation

If you're properly organized, 6 should almost be feasible for a new GM.

[Once your group settles down a bit, you can relax whichever of the rules it will be more fun to loosen.]

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I regularly run groups of up to 6 and have even run 7 or 8 on occasion (I prefer to keep it to 6 or under just to make sure it's easier for everyone to have something to do). Just make sure you have an easy way to keep track of hit points etc, that you balance the encounters appropriately, and that everyone is aware the game will play more slowly due to more people taking turns.

The main thing you need to do is keep things moving and snappy. When it's someone's turn then if they don't know what they are going to do and start doing it knock them down the initiative and give the next person a go. Each person should be planning their move while the people before them are still acting and be ready to go when it comes to it.

This is because the biggest problem here is "screen time". If each of 3 players takes 2 minutes to do their actions then you are still active every few minutes. If 6 players do that though then that means 5 people are waiting around for ten minutes between each time they get to do things.

At that point urgency/immediacy is lost. People start getting bored, checking their phones, etc and the immersion falls apart.

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This answer is more for completeness to this issue, giving another answer which someone may find useful. As should be noted in the tone of this answer, I do not encourage the original poster to follow this.

4 Words, and an idea stolen from Blizzard Entertainment: Homebrewed Two Headed Ogre.

It can be any creature which could conceivably have two heads in D&D lore, such as a troll. I do not suggest doing this for the following reasons:

  1. Homebrewing is easy. Homebrewing and producing something good is hard. Do not homebrew until you think you know 5e inside and out, then study the design philosophies of 5e, then realize you don't know 5e inside and out, and then proceed with homebrewing.
  2. Due to reason #1, many people don't bother with homebrew stuff because doing it well is hard and usually requires a lot of iterations, tweaking, thought, and most of all, patience. Producing good homebrewed stuff, even with good guidance, can be very difficult and is usually a labor of love. Don't do this unless you fall in love with this idea.
  3. There is also the issue of actions economies, control, saves, and other mechanical considerations. This goes deep into the design rabbit hole. This is just to get the character working in such a way that people are happy playing as it, with it, and against it.
  4. There is also the issue of lore and storytelling issues. What is shared and what is not? How can one be a very different class than the other? What happens when one head is cut off, is sleeping, etc.? Why is the party teamed up with an ogre, something most of them kill on sight for "phat lewt" and "sweet, sweet xp."? This list can go on.
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