One campaign, five DMs?

So with the AD&D Yrth campaign likely on indefinite hiatus, the group has been kicking around the idea of starting another campaign with rotating DMs.  The only hitch is we’ll all need to agree on a system.  Tom (once the baby chaos settles), myself, John, Marc, and Chad will all take turns, in theory, running adventures.  Matt and Richard will probably just be along for the ride, as neither is all that interested in being a DM.

We will need to sort out terms of DMing (a whole adventure/quest? a set amount of XP? specific dungeons/areas/cities/islands for each DM?), and we’ve already realized some of us might want to run lower levels and others higher levels, so that would be an issue.

The main things we’ve been looking at as far as systems are Castles & Crusades (for simplicity and cross-D&D compatibility, since some of us want to maybe use TSR modules and some of us like different editions for various reasons) and Old School Hack (we all liked the “awesome points” mechanic and simplicity there too, although the magic system seems to be a little less developed than we’d like).  I expect an unholy goulash of those two systems, with our own house rules, to emerge.

Probably in the meantime I’ll start up Telengard again.  The party may be a little rudderless without their “battle leader” — Grumble, Tom’s PC — but there is still a lot of life left in that campaign.

So, anyone out there try something like that with multiple DMs? What advantages or disadvantages have you encountered? War stories? Comment here or leave a link!

Published in: on September 12, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (6)  

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  1. Wednesday’s discussion and planning should be fairly interesting if the last few days’ emails are any indication.

    Hopefully everyone is honest with what they would like to see so that we can go from there to determine what will work and find some middle ground to get an awesome campaign rolling.

    I forgot all about the Telengard campaign as well since I was only there for a single session. I can’t even remember what I rolled up. I think a lowly level 1 cleric if my memory serves me, which isn’t very often.

  2. Back when I first started playing, we rotated DMs. The idea of a having a single DM I don’t think ever occurred to us. It wasn’t until later, when I had to recruit a group of totally new players, that I fell into DMing on a longterm basis, and it wasn’t until a while after that I found out that was actually the way most people did it.

    Each DM would run the group for one “adventure”, which was actually a short campaign, lasting for a number of months. Experience was calculated at the end of each adventure, with usual result that everyone gained one level. We’d then take a break for a month or two while the next DM prepared his or her game.
    Each adventure, we’d start off in a totally different location, with a brief hook or backstory by the DM explaining how/why we got there. We kept the same characters, unless someone wanted to switch in which case they could take the opportunity to roll up a new one. The previous DM joined in with his or her old character, or a new one.

    We had a fairly big group – 7 – so on a couple of occasions two people would jointly DM. I was joint DM once. My fellow DM and I would meet once a week to plan the adventure. We’d take turns typing it up while we bounced ideas off each other – you can populate a dungeon or city amazingly quickly that way. During play, one DM was basically the primary and did most of the refereeing, while the other took on all the NPC roles. We’d normally switch places each session.

    Not everyone had to DM – whoever volunteered first had claim on the next adventure; if you didn’t volunteer you didn’t have to do it.

    The way the party was uprooted between adventures is an obvious downside, but, I think, vital to the style of play. Each adventure was essentially self-contained. Beyond the scope of each, the world was left undefined so that each DM could build their own adventure without being limited by the previous ones. Obviously, there was some cross-pollination, and I think we revisited some locations during a later game with the same DM, but DMs didn’t share notes.

  3. I’ve co-DMed a game with someone who relied on full scripting and plotting to run sessions and got a bit frustrated with my off-the-cuff style. I would do exactly what you suggested and figure out who wants to run low-level games, high-level, don’t care, etc. and figure out a framework for awarding treasure and experience.

    There’s also the question of worldbuilding. If the DMs are switching between running games and playing in games, how difficult would it be to run a Telengard-style campaign where the party frequently changed ideas and dungeon seeds?

    (BTW, thank you for the TSR booster pack! Totally made my Friday. I’ve been cleaning my place and found a few more minis that need a good home, so those should be heading out this week.)

  4. The Good:
    -a lot less prep work for any one person
    -a variety of play styles, heavy on fun

    The Bad:
    -some hand out magic items like candy, and have an ulterior motive for doing so
    -some DMs were first timers and sucked at it

  5. Here is a record of a bunch of people who did that sort of thing. It seems to follow these guidelines:

    1: Each DM has his dungeon and knows the common rules for adjudicating town adventures in the one and only town of the campaign.
    2: The players who show up for Jim DM’s game night know they will be playing in Jim DM’s Dungeon. (Alternately, the people who want an expedition to Jim’s Dungeon call up Jim and schedule something).
    3: Whoever shows up is in the expedition.
    4: The expedition always returns to town at the end of the session.
    5: The DMs have slightly different ideas about treasure awards, but XP values seem standardized.
    6: Lots of different weird stuff in the dungeons. There are capricious things going on.
    7: Town stuff happens regularly, lots of rumors etc. Players who never see each other in person feel the effects of other players through rumors and seeing things change in the dungeons.
    8: Every game session is one week of game time. This means if you don’t show up, your character sat on his thumbs for a week.
    9: PCs have weekly upkeep costs, which encourages them to play. These weekly upkeep costs are waived if you have a stronghold, which is the inducement.

    It sounds a lot like West Marches style.

  6. I love the idea of sitting down with a few would-be DMs and building a world using Dawn of Worlds, and then rotating running games in the world we built together.

    I read somewhere else about two DMs who had their respective dungeons right next to each other, and the group would take turns going into both of them, which sounded really neat as well.

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