View Full Version : Co-Dming...How does it work?

2008-12-21, 08:00 PM
Me and a friend of mine are wanting to co-dm a group of 7 players. It use to be four and then quite suddenly......i don't know. I disappeared for four months and surprise. But i digress. Now DMing eight players frightens me, so one of them (who also use to DM whenever I got brain dead) and me cooked up a plan to DM the lot of them together. We've got rules (heavily house ruled Pathfinder RPG and the Avatar Bender rules created on these very boards), we've got a setting (Asian setting, influenced heavily by wuxia films of all kinds, Jade Empire, Avatar the Last Airbender, Cthulhu and wikipedia). The only problem we have is figuring out exactly what "co-dm" means.

So what are your experiences with co-dming with a friend? How has it worked for you? What did you do to make it fun for both DMs? We want to do this as equals and i was curious if anyone else had done it like that. Whatever you've got, we'll take.

2008-12-21, 08:15 PM
We never actually went through with it, but a friend and I had plans to do a co-DM game. We were going to keep it simple. I was going to do plot and roleplay. He'd do combat. If the group was doing either activity together we'd take turns DMing. If the group split up we'd split accordingly.

The one concern was writing the overarching plot. I had a feeling he'd take over and I wasn't sure what to do then, but we never got that far.

Anyway, how you co-DM really depends on you and the other DM. If you insist on keeping things equal you should probably each write up a list of what you like and don't like doing as DM. Hopefully your skills will complement each other's. Alternatively you could have a main DM and an assistant DM. I think that would be an easier way to deal with creative differences between you.

2008-12-21, 08:30 PM
I like to think of it as dual wielding.

2008-12-21, 08:32 PM
I like to think of it as dual wielding.

Conceptually awesome, but clunky and not really worth it in practice unless you're a rogue?

2008-12-21, 08:35 PM
Depending on what you need done, it can work quite well. For example, they can help run some of the combat for you. If you feel comfortable telling them part of the plot, they can bring fresh insight into NPC's

Lert, A.
2008-12-21, 08:39 PM
What valadil said.

Make sure that you mark out what areas are "yours," which are "his," and which are "ours." I've co-DMed quite a few times where we worked out the storyline together then took turns running combat and story. Other times there were group break-ups and we each took a few players, bring them all together later on. There are also times when we would share, each taking turns as DM and having a PC for the off weeks.

2008-12-21, 08:51 PM
I've been in both co-GM games as a player and a GM. Typically what we'll do is have the GMs discuss and work out the adventure ahead of time. During the game play, the GMs would both play NPCs. In combat, typically one would plan and roll for the enemies while the other dealt with the PCs.

I found it nice but not needed to have the GMs some way to communicate discreetly between each other such as IM. Even then, you'll need to sometimes take some time discussing when the PCs do something unforeseen.

In my opinion, the best advantages of two GMs is physiological and multitasking. It's nice to have someone to bounce your ideas off of and stops the general "I'm outnumbered" feeling you can get. Also, it's real nice to be able to have two NPCs roleplayed at the same time. This is good for situations where the NPCs shouldn't act together (such as when they have different agendas).

Generally, it can work well assuming that the GMs work well together, have similar playstyles, and willing to discuss potential issues. Thankfully that's been the case in games I've been in, but I could see how it'll go bad fast otherwise.

2008-12-21, 09:14 PM
Seven players is a little daunting, but it can be done. If the Co-DMing thing doesn't work out, give it a try (letting the players know that you are going to have to expect better behavior from them because of the group size). There are lots of little tricks. For example, when a group of PCs all act in a row, have them take their actions in whichever order they like. When a group of NPCs acts, roll them in advance and have them act at the same time.

When deciding what to do with an extra pair of hands, you have to think about what you feel like you end up losing when you are busy. Depending on the answer, the Co-DM could a) get the attention of the players b) handle mechanics of NPCs or monsters c) add description d) brainstorm plot e) remind players of the rules/how to play. If it feels like one player is getting the short end of the stick, switch roles every now and then. You will both find ways to occupy your time, either way, you just have to make sure you don't step on each others toes. Have a coin to flip in case you find yourself in a minor point of contention during the session.

2008-12-22, 05:56 AM
I'm in a co-DMd game at the moment. We have one "main" DM, and the other one runs a DMPC - effectively he's a player who's read the campaign notes, knows where the plot is going, has ideas bounced off him, and runs the occasional NPC.it works quite well, he does things like collect initiative scores, and he gives advice because he's far more experienced than the main DM.

2008-12-22, 06:23 AM
I've co-dmed a couple of games with a friend before, it was a great combination actually, he was very good at planned stuff and combat and i was good at spontanouse stuff and npcs, we also ran an npc hero character in the group who we used to keep the story in check (also great for when one of us needed a break).

2008-12-22, 08:20 AM
I'm in a co-DMd game at the moment. We have one "main" DM, and the other one runs a DMPC - effectively he's a player who's read the campaign notes, knows where the plot is going, has ideas bounced off him, and runs the occasional NPC.

I tried this once. In theory, it should work great.

In practice, it blew up in my face. But I don't think I set it up to work properly.

Kris Strife
2008-12-22, 10:06 AM
I played in a campaign with three DM's in Med Hold once. We had two groups, each had their own quest runner/math checker DM, and one primary DM that ran the main story and arbitrated. Worked well for what little time we had.

2008-12-22, 10:23 AM
I tried this once. In theory, it should work great.

In practice, it blew up in my face. But I don't think I set it up to work properly.

We require additional details.

2008-12-22, 10:31 AM
Yanno, me and a buddy of mine Co-DM'd a 12 man party before. Here's what we did, that worked out.. okay.

1) The both of us got together and brainstormed. Jotted notes down and everything. Made sure we both knew where the other one was coming from. We both like Sandbox-type campaigns, so that actually made it simpler.

2) One of us was the 'Plot Master', and the other one was the 'Dungeon Master'. I ran the overall plotline, he ran the dungeons. I fed the party as much RP as they desired, when it came to mindless slaughter, my buddy stepped in and DM'd fights.

3) before AND after every session, we discussed what happened, what the party is looking like they want to do next, what reasonable challenges should they fight... sketch things out in several possibilities so that we were ready.

4) Contacted multiple times during the week to keep in touch, letting the other know when one got a brainstorm, keep each other apprised of what is going on, and such.

Mind you, it requires about 4x the effort to co-DM than to regular DM, but if you've got a huge party, it may well be worth your while to 'share the load'.

Iudex Fatarum
2008-12-22, 10:35 AM
My first DnD campaign I was in was run by two co-DMs. The first one had never even played before but was massively creative guy who could spout story and plot off the top of his head, the other guy was a veteran player and knew the rules inside and out, but couldn't do plot to save his life. worked out quite well, although we only had 2 sessions. (kind of fell apart when OOC and IC relationships got blurred for two of the people, he was hitting on her, and her character, she was not interested) The veteran player also had a PC to run so he didn't get bored.

2008-12-22, 11:08 AM
I'd recommend the assisstant DM idea, as long as the person being the assisstant will still have fun. This person would not have a PC< and neither would the DM (of course). So you'd have DM, Ast. DM, and 7 PCs.

The Ast. DM could be responsible for running any NPCs, rolling for the monsters if needed, sort of take a load off of the DM's back. If a player has a question, he could ask either the DM or the Ast. DM.

In-between sessions the DM and Ast. DM could confer, make sure they are on the same page, etc.

Good luck.

2008-12-22, 12:26 PM
Co-DMing can be very rewarding; but you must have absolute confidence in the person you're working with. As mentioned, you also need to clearly establish the responsibilities you and your partner have; One may develop plot and the other combat scenarios. Or, both may just broadly brainstorm all ideas together. Whatever the case, make sure you think alike, or else you'll probably argue somewhere down the line.

The first time I co-DMed it worked out poorly. The other DM didn't want to even tell me what he wanted to do, beforehand. And, it was plot-related. It was a sort of "surprise" thing. And it was terrible. Absolutely terrible. It's even what's responsible for that group's break-up!

All DMs involved in a project need to discuss their plans in great detail with one another. If not just to determine whether they agree on concept, at least they can help you edit the material.

2008-12-22, 12:49 PM
We require additional details.

To make a long story short, I ended up telling my co-DM the whole storyline so that they could understand what was going on and act appropriately. They assured me that this was going to work out just fine and everything would run smoothly.

They then went ahead and played the same CN campaign-smashing character they usually play, except this time as an NPC instead of a PC.

The fault was mine, really. I should never have given them that much leeway to do what they wanted to do. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.

2008-12-22, 05:46 PM
Thanks, for the ideas. Me and my buddy are going to mull this over a bit and see what we can do. Any one else?

On a related note, I've just discovered that 7 players could possibly become 11 at any point........so yeah. Anyone got any advice on that conundrum as well.

My head hurts.

2008-12-22, 06:12 PM
Five words. "Sorry, the campaign is full."
If you're feeling masochistic, add a further eight. "I could always run another one for you."

2008-12-24, 04:10 PM
I co-DM'd with a friend for about a year and a half.

Officially, I handled the overall story and he handled the mechanics and a smattering of the NPCs. If there was a group, we'd split them up so the interactions would be relatively interesting--each of us played one of a pair of twin antagonists, for instance, and there were a lot of 60-40 splits of groups of 5 NPCs. We'd meet regularly to discuss what to do in a current plot arc; occasionally, we'd even run little sidechat-things between us to figure out what was going on offstage. Advantage was that it gave both of us a chance to half-play, as we all had our favorite NPCs.

Main things to remember:

Make sure both DMs have some idea where the story's going. Plot twists can be fun, but it's good to have an overall image so you aren't scrambling to fix things.

By the same token, don't be afraid to mix things up a little. Some of my best plots came from my co-DM doing things I wasn't expecting; the antagonist who negotiated with the group, the time he accidentally offed my BBEG and the way we worked around it made the guy even scarier.

Plot, plot, plot! If you're exchanging ideas and asking each other questions, you're likelier to catch the holes in your ideas before the players do.

Regarding the increase in players: Know your limits. Sometimes you really do have to say no. I personally know that my limit is about five people without an assistant; with, I might be able to get to seven, but I'm not sure. And that's only online; face to face, I think my top capacity is three, four at most.

2008-12-25, 12:21 AM
If the number is 11, you are probably better off splitting the groups in half and going without co-DMs. If you do this, there are a couple things to consider:
-Two adventuring groups in the same world. Occasionally the encounter evidence of the other's passage and they may be primarily allies or primarily rivals or both depending on your style of play. Ever so often, and probably for the final battle, you have an event that involves both groups. This really only works if the groups can meet approximately for the same amount of time and can manage to get through approximately the same amount of plot.
-Alternatively, you could go with entirely different settings and game-styles so that the players realize the benefits of a group that is more specifically tailored to their desires.
-If one of the two DMs/campaigns/GroupsOfPCs gets the reputation of being better (if for only in the beginning) than it can be a contest for who gets to be in the "good" group and who is left-over. Be sure to establish groups in which everyone would feel like they are happy with the situation, and be sure everyone is willing to give the group that they are originally assigned to a fair chance before considering switching. Be sure to emphasize the benefits of a DM focusing on fewer players. That being said, if someone wants to switch later on, by all means let them - you don't want to be East Germany to West Germany (or North Korea to South Korea).
-You would have five or six players to each DM but if one of the groups unbalances, this could become more dramatically lopsided. You can certainly control a group of this size, but you have to be prepared for it if it gets larger. Again, I would reiterate that I feel that seven players can be done with a single DM successfully, and that is exactly what you would have to attempt. At this point, three or four DMs would be silly.
-You could still do this for your group of seven players, and you would have three and four players. This would be even more manageable, but you would instead have to worry about one group being reduced to an unreasonably low amount of players. That and of course, it's nice to gather all the friends together that you can manage.

I've DM'd a group varying from five to seven PCs and it was my most successful campaign. I had an assistant in someone who I would talk about plot with and who was not in the game, but that was all that I needed. It certainly commanded less attention in a bigger group, but I learned to manage it well and take advantage of the idea of PCs helping each other play the game.

2008-12-25, 04:15 PM
I have been the usual DM for my group. However, one of the other members wanted to try to make a campaing involving larger battles (25 figures). In order to help him out I run 3/4 of the monsters during combat and give him advise on the campaign design. A division like this might work in your case.

2008-12-25, 11:06 PM
The way our group does it, we have a story GM and a combat GM for Unhallowed Metropolis. It's a horror game, so we let the gothboy in our group do all of the atmosphere and setting and story and intrigue, while our traditional hack and slash player does the combat. Our combat GM also plays a doctor who does not participate in combat, so there isn't much issue.

Mushroom Ninja
2008-12-25, 11:57 PM
In the game I'm Co-DM-ing, The other DM is chief plotmaster and consultant encounter-crafter while I am Chief encounter-crafter and assistant plotmaster. It works pretty well.