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I have a 5e D&D campaign right now that is very successful. Right now I have 10 players in two groups, each group playing once a week. However, recently I have had 6 more people who want to make a third group and I'm not sure I have the time myself to run and prep for that many sessions per week. The groups are in the same world, but not running the same plots.

So, it was suggested that I ask some players to become assistant DMs to help with prep and plotting, but I'm not sure what tasks I could realistically delegate, or how many players would be appropriate to have as Assistants.

What can Assistant DMs effectively help with, and how many would be useful for our group size?

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One thing I would suggest is to let your assistants contribute to the other groups' adventures. That way their contributions don't remove the mystery and suspense from their own game.

That said, maybe delegate building out the lead-in encounters... the non-plot or plot-tangent encounters that exist due to the setting. You supply the rough outlines of the environment/room(s) and the creatures/challenges you want. So, if your adventurers are headed through the Forest of Itchy Rashvines, you indicate you want a goblin ambush with low threat. Maybe you'll add a plot-hook item to the lead goblin at game time, maybe not.

Some other things to work out with your assistants before you start:

  • Logistics: How early do they need the encounter "sketches" from you, and how much lead time will you need to incorporate it?
  • Plot Secrets: Are your assistants capable of discretion, or socially separate from the other groups? If they can't keep plot twists secret, then you're limited in how much encounter-building control you can delegate... If they build an encounter for you, they'll necessarily know something about the nature of the upcoming threats, and you wouldn't want to ruin a whole group's session because your assistant can't keep a secret.
  • Creative Control: Are your assistants willing (and able) to implement your ideas, or are you willing to give up some creative control of your adventures? If you end up having to spell it all out anyway you might not be saving much time or effort.
  • Encounter Rewards: Do assistants get to decide, or is that your domain?
  • Assistant Rewards: If the whole group isn't capable of being an Assistant (they're probably not), then they'll be doing more work than the rest, but not getting a direct payoff. GMs get to run the adventure they built; Assistants wouldn't, so reward (more groups get to play games run by you) is diffused across the groups. If the assistants are socially interacting with the other groups this may not be a problem, because they get to trash-talk after the other groups' adventures, but then the discretion question is more important.
  • Adventure Tuning: Especially in 5e, this is pretty important. Any single encounter is pretty easy to tune for a "fresh" 5e party. But after the 1st or 2nd encounter, the characters have probably burned up a big chunk of spells and/or heals and are starting to feel the strain. Managing that strain is tricky when only one person is doing it.
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As a GM I have run several different RPGs some times with groups as large as eight people the thing that has worked the best for me is to delegate to my "assistant GM" those tasks that are cut and dry mechanics issues. For example when the party enters combat organizing initiative helping keep track of modifiers to attacks or situational and temporary effects. I also use my assistant GM as lookup monkey. I don't know about anyone else but in the middle of a game with 6+ people I forget a lot of very small rules or obscure reference point especially in Shadowrun 5e if I have to deal with a party member trying to deck the matrix and cant remember what skills would be appropriate for trying to sleeze past a megacorps network security I can have my assistant look it up and not bring the game to a screeching halt while I thumb through the main book.

The main benefit of this sort of assistant is to remove a lot of the organizational and mechanical demands from the GM allowing her or him to continue with the adventure and create less lag and downtime as he tries to find a rule or organize and monitor an encounter.

As to the comment about the benefit to the player that is the assistant GM I usually have the understanding that if you want to be the leader of the party this is the requirement for that position. It provides the player with a modicum of authority but it does not ruin their role playing experience because they are not involved with creating or managing the plot and NPCs.

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