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We have a large group of 9 people. As such, it's more manageable when we split into 2 separate teams to take objectives (like one team saves the villagers and the other fights the bandit leader). In this case, the DM has to do the groups one by one, taking a lot of time, or he runs both almost simultaneously making him run back and forth.

To help in this, I would like to DM the side I'm in when we split. I've been reading the DM's guide, planning to run an adventure with my GF and her sister. But if I do DM my side when we split, I will have the information of the combat we're in and the rooms, interactions, knowledge of hidden items secrets etc.

How can I resist the call of metagaming when both DMing and playing a PC?


I'm not asking in this question how to deal with a large group; I've made the choice to DM for a split team. I'm asking how to not meta-game when behind the screen, as I'm a newbie DM, and have not played and DMed at the same time before.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @daze413 I'd read it as the split would happen within one session. I.e. persons 1-5 are playing one bit of the plot while persons 6-10 play another bit, all simultaneously. So OP's character, if they're to be involved, would have to be with the party that OP GMs. Is that correct, Curios? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 7 '18 at 3:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ yeah, i guess i should be in the bit that i am not dm-ing so it helps more in not meta gaming, but i guess even bits of the plot on the DM's notes will give away things in the other sides \$\endgroup\$ – Curios Maximus Mar 7 '18 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ By a lot of definitions of "meta gaming"..... you can't. Doesn't mean you have to break your game for it, but there WILL be some meta gaming. \$\endgroup\$ – Patrice Mar 8 '18 at 0:38
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You are describing a DMPC, or Dungeonmaster Player Character. Many groups frown on this practice, and some folks flat out admonish other from even trying. But it can be done, and done well. Our group has run campaigns with rotating GMs (in multiple systems). There are a couple of things to keep in mind.

  1. You will never be on an even footing with the regular PCs. This is impossible simply because the other PCs can be mistaken or misinterpret your description of the environment, but you can't. You are the one responsible for adjudicating the rules and interpreting the environment around the characters. You inherently know which information is important to know and which can be safely ignored. To this end:

  2. Use it as a tool. Since your character is being controlled by a player who knows everything and is responsible for keeping the game moving, use that knowledge for that purpose. This does not mean knowing how to disarm every trap, or what the weakness of every monster is. Far, far from it. However, if your players are stuck for a clue, a word from your character goes a long way toward pointing them in the right direction. You know what they are facing, so if your character can heal, you have a better idea than the others when a judicious cure wounds would turn the tide. It is important when making these decisions to:

  3. Take the back seat. Since you do know the details of the world, your actions and decisions would be more effective by at least an order of magnitude than the others. You should not be a leader, you shouldn't probably even cast a vote in a decision, unless there is a stalemate that would endanger the adventure's smooth flow. Take the last pick of treasure. Keep your character mechanically simple and frankly, less effectively built than the regular PCs. This will go a long way toward keeping your character from being as "important" as the other PCs. Be a utility and a helper to the party in the sense of taking a support role. Avoid the temptation of contradicting another player's desired course of action or opinion. It will be tough, and it is not as rewarding in mechanical terms, but there are many great opportunities simply to roleplay.

TL,DR: It can be done if you underplay your character's importance and use the DMPC as a tool to help subtly guide the flow of action. Be a roleplayer, more than an enactor. Swallow your ego.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 8 '18 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Definately endorse no.3; I have DMPC'd before and making sure that you don't just lead the others through the problems and know what to do at all times is the only safe way (I've found) so you have to be prepared for your character to take a back seat \$\endgroup\$ – Rob May 2 at 14:07
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Enhance your roleplay.

I have some experience in playing a game while DMing and rotating DMs. Sometimes you get tempted to make an optimal choice for your character because of knowledge you have as a DM. When that happens ask yourself, "What would (Insert your character name here) do?" (W.W.#.D.?). Cases like:

  • Would it be best to bribe the guard but your character is a law abiding citizen that wouldn't do that? Then don't.
  • There will be an ambush tonight? Don't sleep in armor just today because you felt like it if you don't do that daily.
  • The opponent is resistant to fire, your character doesn't know that and your usual spell of choice is a fire spell? Try to burn him at least once; don't suddenly go for an acid spell.

It's a role-playing game; sticking to your character is important, most of the time more important than survival¹ (not saying to not try to survive, please do try). That is the mindset you should set for yourself when playing while DMing.

¹ Sometimes your character is about to fall from grace, change their behavior for the better or the like due to an opportunity in the story that you feel would be cool and have nothing to do with your knowledge as DM. In those cases, going against the usual behavior is totally acceptable.

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When you DM, let your PC be an "NPC-by-committee."

I run a campaign where I occasionally let one of the players guest-DM a session they plan on their own, with me participating as a normal player. For this reason, every player in the campaign has their own PC, even me. That way regardless of the DM for the session everybody has a character they can play.

When someone is DM'ing, their PC is either handled as a suboptimal DM-controlled PC (follow the advice in Keith Curtis's answer for this technique) or as an "NPC-by-committee." When the character's turn comes around, they are not controlled by the DM. Instead, they are controlled by the rest of the players (typically by majority acclamation) or by whichever players are willing to take on the challenge of controlling an additional character (typically one or two players will be passionate about this opportunity and should be allowed to volunteer on a rotating basis).

This has worked exceptionally well in my campaign. Unlike a normal NPC that the players may not know very well or care much about, the "NPC-by-committee" is a regularly featured PC, so the players generally feel attached to that character and respect the emotional significance of that PC to the DM they belong to. This gets a lot of player buy-in because the players care for that character and take the responsibility seriously. Since the PC is a regular fixture in the game, the players are also fairly familiar with the character's abilities and competent at playing them effectively, whereas they might be less clear about the abilities of a normal NPC they don't often see in action.

I trust my players to take control of my character, and they haven't let me down. On the rare occasion that they suggest my character do something I believe to be out of character, I can redirect them to another course of action. If you trust your players to have control of your character, this technique works splendidly. If you don't trust them, then try the technique in the answer linked above, which has also worked well. Finally, follow the advice in the linked answer anyway to account for the dialog of the "NPC-by-committee," which should still be under your control.

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Arrange it so that you never get to be the GM for the group that includes your character. Don't run the game and play your character at the same time.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You should edit this answer to support it with evidence or experience. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 3 at 3:37
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I will play a DMPC as "off-camera". This is about 1/2 party-NPC and 1/2 DMPC.

If the group is missing a fairly important skill or something, then a DMPC can have this. I don't play a DMPC or party NPC unless absolutely necessary. And, then, it will likely be a "hand-waive", of "and, John Doe did that thing while you were fighting/discussing, or whatever.

I also use them if there is going to be a larger fight and few PC's.

A DMPC might also be around as a "guide" if the players are new.

Basically, they need to have a specific purpose - use them only for that purpose.

Lastly, you mention that you'll have meta-knowledge. Don't use it for the DMPC. And, if you feel like you might gain knowledge running this off-group from the main group, then remember that a DM can (and does) change anything they want. I've played the same book adventure with two different DMs, and it is hard to tell exactly what is going on when they change things up.

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It is something that, even as a GM only (with NPCs), is hard to do.

The simple method (if you don't trust yourself) is to take note of what do you learn as a DM that your character don't know, then when you want to plan something, you read your notes and if you use something that is in it, you change (By the way, if your character learn something that is in your notes, cross it out).

Another method is to do that with your brain and not with paper.

And then there is the method were you have something to make you forgot what you know as DM, but I'm not sure it's a good idea XD

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