The DM in my group is getting tired of DMing. Unfortunately, no one wants to take over. Can we play without a DM?
No. D&D has the Dungeon Master baked in.
The solution to this problem is likely to find and try different game systems for a while. Maybe come back to D&D when someone has the motivation to DM some sessions.
The rules explicitly require a dungeon master role
Basic rules of how to play introduction states the loop of:
The DM describes the environment.
The players describe what they want to do.
The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions.
The DM is required for setting up player agency. Describing an environment in which the players have choices, and then describing how those choices affect the environment.
Maybe. Here is a site that describes playing D&D or Pathfinder using an app called Endless RPG. I have no experience with it, but having just found it I'm going to give it a try for solo gaming.
From the site:
Endless RPG was created to allow the flexibility to play without a dedicated DM by having an iPhone, iPad and Android device present a random adventure in a player-friendly manner.
Endless RPG gives you the feeling of exploring and not knowing exactly what may come next, but when it comes to rolling combat, you will have to DM yourself. After all, you are in charge of both the monsters and your character (or even a whole group of characters!).
Having played it for all of 5 minutes; the app provides scenarios, maps, random encounters, and treasure generation. You have to provide character specs, and rolls for combat. You are responsible for tracking HP (in the app) and monster specs.
There are some D&D flavored board games and online games, eg D&D online, Gloomhaven, or Massive Darkness. The game provides the DM for you.
Let your DM play other roles as well!
A few years ago I spent some time with my then-girlfriend. There were no more possible players (her grandma wasn't interested). We played AD&D and some local RPG as well. She was the DM, and she had an NPC/PC character (a ranger I think), and - since there are more than 1 role in an effective party, I had 3 (a pixie fighter, a dwarf fighter/cleric, and maybe a wizard). It was fun! Of course, I had to solve all the puzzles, and make all the decisions for the party, but there was no serious downside. Occasionally she took one of my characters for a dialog, so even that is possible. Just think of it like a videogame, where you control multiple characters.
My suggestion is, if you go this way, the DM should choose a Strength-based character, and not an Intelligence/Wisdom-based one. (It would be weird if the most intelligent character couldn't solve puzzles,) Also, the DM should keep balance with the rest of the party (an overpowered magic item only his (N)PC can use is not good).
D&D 5e would be very difficult to play without a DM/GM
D&D was designed from the beginning to have a GM. I'm hesitant to say it can't be done, as I always like a good challenge, but it would definitely be a daunting task to modify D&D to play without a GM.
There are RPGs designed for this type of game play.
Rather than reinventing the wheel you could check out RPGs that were created from the ground up with this style of game play in mind. Archipelago III is one such game and is explicitly designed to play without a GM. It utilizes an alternating narrator role which allows each player to describe the adventure. The rules for the Archipelago III system are available for free on Norwegian Style.
Do note however that the creator accepts donations which are passed on to a non-profit.
The game is described in the rulebook:
Archipelago is a story/role-playing game where each player controls a major character. Players take turns directing and playing out a part of their character’s story, leading them towards their selected point of destiny, while other players interact with and influence that story.
Yes. You'll need your system rules, and a solo engine. A solo engine is a set of rules/guidelines to help you decide what's going on, fulfilling the GM's role.
Solo engines include:
- Mythic GM Emulator
- Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator
- The 9 Questions Engine
- Covetous Poets Adventure Creator
- Perilous Intersections
- Tiny Solitary Soldiers
There are also many tools and resources you'll find useful for solo play, such as Rory's Story Cubes for inspiration, and the many generators you can find on the web. Here's a few large lists of resources. These pages should have links to everything you'll need:
If you don't find any of the engines quite to your liking, there's no one stopping you from adjusting to taste, or just making your own. Now someone may argue that this is not really playing D&D (or another system), but if all you have are the rules and yourself and you want to use them, this is what you do.