I maintain a group of roughly 10 players including 3-5 flaky DMs. While looking for solutions to the usual large group problems (maintaining attention, DM overload, slow combat, designing appropriate encounters, etc), we have reached the conclusion that we could probably support the players better if we allocated half the group to design content for the other half, then alternated so that every other session half the group gets to play and half the group gets to design.

(I've read up on some of the related questions here and found them helpful, but lacking. The group is also fiercely collective; suggesting that we split the game would get me burned at the stake for heresy.)

Is there a body of knowledge on how we might approach this task (team-based game design)?

My group isn't really interested in storygame-style systems.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dragonsdoom I suspect this may take some time to get answers, because it's such an unusual practice in tabletop groups that we likely have few users with relevant experience. It's common in LARPing though, so our handful of resident LARP experts might show up with something useful given a bit of time! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2013 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Thanks for the heads up, no worries! I'm excited to be part of the SE community and I understand it takes some time for an exchange to gain traction. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2013 at 19:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It maybe a good idea to ask this (or a slightly modified question) on writer as well. You might get better answers as to collaborative fiction. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2013 at 10:39

4 Answers 4


Keep discussions to a minimum in length and number, lest they become arguments.

In our group, for achieving that, we follow this procedure:

  1. Establish the question or problem to solve
  2. Brainstorm time: Everyone interested write down his proposals in a really short draft format (post-it are ideal for the task)
  3. Each proposer is allowed a brief time to be explain his proposal to the others
  4. Each proposal is voted Yes or No. Yes means it can be developed further, No means it is discarded.
  5. If two conflicting proposals receive a yes, we vote again between the two.
  6. Repeat the process as needed until problem is solved.

We find useful to keep a sort of registry/mind map, where we keep note of all proposals, accepted or rejected, to use as inspiration and to avoid repeating ourselves. That is the other reason, apart from keeping the whole thing agile, for keeping proposals short and concise.

Is also advisable to establish a fixed, short time for the brainstorm session duration, the time that each one has for exposing his proposal and the time limit for the vote. We use 2 minutes for all, not for any criteria in particular, but because we have taken a liking to use a sand clock from an old Pictionary game for the task.

  • \$\begingroup\$ + for post-its, voting and mind map with all proposals - all really good on their own. This really is similar to Lean Coffee! :-) Would you have this for GMs when deciding on content or would you include players? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2013 at 12:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very practical and useful answer! Thank you for your thoughts on this. Awarding answer - I also appreciated @LIttleAncientForestKami 's answer below. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2013 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LIttleAncientForestKami Only for decide on content usually. We came with this as a mean to get the most of the scarce time we can invest in it. Nevertheless, sometimes we have resorted to have the players making proposals and votes during play sessions as a mean to cut down lengthy arguments. We do not need to do it often,thankfully. \$\endgroup\$
    – MACN
    Dec 2, 2013 at 19:57

A rule I've found very useful is to hand specific players/GMs veto power over a given area. Anyone who wants to create a plot point in that area has to run it by them.

An area need not be geographic. Example Areas: "The Church of the god of War", "The City of Cordine", "The Dwarf-Elf War", "The Desert Lands"

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like you have some experience with this. This would be a much better answer if you expanded on it just a bit! Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – user8248
    Nov 28, 2013 at 6:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Concise and so on the money. We used this and it worked really well. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2013 at 12:30

Apology for length. Let me know if I understood you well, I shall change the answer as needed.

What do they want?

I must say I'm not entirely sure what is it that your group is after. Perhaps it's more about their own company than it is about the game? What they enjoy the most? Whom they want to play? What campaigns would they want? Are your GMs good in those areas?

Designing for others

May be surprisingly hard:

  • requires lot of talking between designer and content-user (assuming they are different people)
  • requires involvement of user (otherwise he'll often change the location / NPC to his liking on the spot, making the designer kinda offended: why did I spent so much time on it if he changed it in the end?)
  • both points mean it requires time FROM both designers and users (note that GM == content user != player)
  • collaborative writing tips that someone had already suggested here are a really fine idea!
  • all the collaborative works of fiction I enjoyed had one supervisor / editor / master writer who had a final say in all, for conceptual integrity

Similar campaign from my own experience

I played a multi-GM campaign in the past, below are some details. In a nutshell, we had regional GMs and master one. We had our team of players and had lots of other characters (which we played occasionally, sometimes only once, sometimes more). There was a lot of world-building during and between the sessions.

Nominate master GM

One to rule them all, one to have decisive power over others. This unfortunate fellow will be the least likely to play but you will have conceptual integrity and all the discussions would have a final say.

Give areas of responsibility

This ties with veto power, as in "I'm responsible for this, it can't happen like you want it, since duke Archdragon would never allow it. However for this prince to get away X and Y would have to be at war or close to it, then their patrols would be lax on that road, or we may..."

Let folks have their areas, with pros and cons. Have a meeting where you would design those areas. Good example would be provinces of one country, where main GM would control the central province (royal or whatever that gives him the power over others). We had a province with strongest magical school but with LOTS of vampires, we had a scattered province (federation of counties) but with strong merchant guild, we had a province that had advanced technology (gunpowder) but had little farm lands and a province that could fed entire country and would have something left for export, but had weakest military (since they relied on some really old treaties that recently got broken twice).

Finding those strengths and weaknesses and discussing them made for a delightful world-building sessions between GMs.

Also, if other masters are flaky, having their own piece of world can motivate them.

Focus on crucial events

We had multiple characters: normal characters, and "VIP characters" that did politics and affected the game world. VIP characters could be different per session (ambassador here, master spy there, archmage and mage academy headmaster the next etc.) but they had usually power in our "regions".

So, for instance, I had one province where merchant guild was incredibly powerful and on VIP session I had an envoy who would bribe others, broke deals, proposed loans to other VIPs that later affected our usual PCs, since all of a sudden a poor province would start drafting people into military or would barricade a city that had a miner's guild that was inconvenient for my merchants but also happened to be a city where our PCs where staying.

We also could have fun with important regional events. One of GMs had a coup d'etat and wanted to see if this will actually work. So, he gave us characters and we had two assassins, master spy, brave guard and the prince himself. Coup failed but master spy lost his life, so province was shaken. Nice thinking on prince part to elevate brave guard to a hero for good publicity and to boost morale (and downplay death of master spy). Assassins managed to cover their tracks well enough that evidence of "who set it up" was weak at best.

This gives you power to play many different things which should boost attention of your very large group.

LARPs and battles

Simplify mechanics and play LARPs and perhaps battles (team-dependent). I firmly believe usual table-top RPG fails with so many players, unless from your group of ten less then 50% show up per session.

LARPs help with diplomatic events, battles with military campaigns. If your provinces have statistics (even as simple as: very good spy network, weak economy, mediocre military strength) then you can actually roll dice on how much information you get, how much income etc. Also, with battles you can mix battle mechanics in large-scale with role-playing cannon fodder during crucial moments.

This unfortunately means custom mechanics, but search some indies - I wouldn't be surprised if there are good solutions for rolling diplomacy, battle and or politics on a global scale.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I love this answer and I wish I could give you credit for a strong supporting answer. Sadly, I found @MACN 's answer a bit more useful, but thank you very much for taking the time to reply- I have more ideas for further research now! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2013 at 16:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dragonsdoom not a problem. Glad it helped and if MACN's answer worked better for you than he should get the approval. Who better to judge that than you? :-) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2013 at 15:22

The only time I've done collaborative campaign design (and running), the two of us had separate (geographical) main focus areas (about 200-300 km apart, but in a modern world, so relatively trivial distance). Anything we felt was "game-changing" needed communicating to the other GM and the two parties were primarily running around in the city their geo-area centred on.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .