View Full Version : Rotate DMs every session?

2010-08-06, 09:11 PM
I just got this idea, and I think it could be interesting. Basically, the players all sit together and choose a setting to play in, pick a location where the PCs will begin and everyone makes characters. A DM rotation is then decided upon, and every session, a different player DMs the same group continuing the same adventure.

The rules would be that the DMs don't consult with each other at all when it comes to plots, if they have them, or talk about what would have been in the next room etc. and let the game grow organically as each DM tries to carry on the story from the previous session with little to no idea of where the DM was heading with the story other than his knowledge as a PC.

Perhaps some players would rather sit out of the DM chair and only players that are comfortable DMing would rotate. Maybe the rotation could be based on levels, so the DM rotates only when people level up, giving DMs a chance to plan out a bit more before they give up their plots.

It might even be interesting to put the next DM in a tough spot by coming up with something completely wild, then handing over the reins and see how the next DM manages to move things along.

Thoughts? Ideas?

2010-08-06, 09:24 PM
As long as no DM has his/her heart set on any long term plot or on a recurring villain not being casually sent to slaughter at the hands of the PCs, it could be really fun. You could try having a campaign work that way, or it could also be fun just to do a series of one-shots. That way, everyone gets a chance to play and DM, and it allows for a little more consistency withing each segment.

You would also have to make sure that everyone agrees on how the world is set up. Your villains evil plan to steal all of the towns gumdrops is going to look pretty stupid when the next DM sends everyone on an adventure to the gumdrop mountains right by that town next session.

2010-08-06, 09:25 PM
I've tried it, problem is either the session become a mini-adventure that wraps itself up, or you never finish a "dungeon crawl" or gain much progress, Its better to rotate DM's each doing their own adventure, with each adventure having its own set of PC's (or switching out every campaign)

2010-08-06, 09:35 PM
I did this for a while. It's really hard to make an engaging ongoing campaign this way, but it's a really easy way to work through one-off adventures while still building characters appropriately. The sort of episodic sessions also make introducing/changing characters pretty easy.

The only two concerns are dealing with each players assumptions on A) the weight of the plot, B) the level of wealth that is appropriate in the game and C) the general tone of the game.

I remember that the most frequent* DM, who I'll call DM1, was very much in favor of holding in-depth ongoing plots, featuring political intrigue, etc. It kind of bothered him when DM2 assumed that, because it was his turn, he could do anything he liked with the NPCs (NPCs that DM1 still had plans for).
*we didn't take turns; we mostly just said "who wants to DM next session?" and went with it

The distribution of wealth got really wonky when DM1 gave a single +1 longsword [that nobody in the group was able to wield] in the dozen or so sessions he ran, while DM2 was hucking +7 Armor around like candy. It didn't help that the loot was distributed very unevenly between players. Needless to say, it was quite difficult to plan appropriate encounters based on party power levels.

Then the general tone of the campaign was really spotty. DM1 favored fostering a gritty intense mood, DM2 made everything fairly fairly detached and puzzle/wargame-y and I tried to make things light, good-humored and pulpy. This might be acceptable for most groups, but DM1 was kind of flustered because he didn't think anybody else was taking things seriously enough.

So it can be a fun idea, just be sure you don't expect a coherent ongoing narrative and be sure you keep appropriate communication with the rest of your group based on your expectations and intents.

2010-08-06, 09:57 PM
This can work great. It has a coupla caveats.

First, obviously, DMs can't put loot in specifically for their own character. If loot gets randomly rolled, thats cool, but no obvious stashes of gear for themselves. In fact, it's best if their character sits out while they DM.

Secondly, everyone DMing needs at least a lil bit of experience. Its rough on brand new players to DM, especially when they dont have a campaign to fall back on.

Thirdly, set up the overall setting together. A structure like all of you employed by the same organization is convenient for such a setting, as it explains why you get sent out on sometimes unrelated missions.

Once you get into the swing of it, you'll notice that it becomes much less disjointed, and a plot somehow just happens as the DMs get used to each others style, and work with former plot elements to create nifty new things.

2010-08-06, 11:40 PM
I did this once. It was awesome.

I've tried it, problem is either the session become a mini-adventure that wraps itself up, or you never finish a "dungeon crawl" or gain much progress, Its better to rotate DM's each doing their own adventure, with each adventure having its own set of PC's (or switching out every campaign)

This is absolutely true. We ended up saying that each GM runs a 2-4 session adventure. This also solved the problem of XP rewards since we simply leveled between GMs.

I did this with a group of players who were also comfortable GMs. We all rotated through campaigns. Nobody felt out of place in the GM seat. Nobody went on a power trip, trying to see how much they could disrupt things for the next group (although some players had done a similar campaign before where this had been a problem).

We ended up doing two cycles through GMs. In the first cycle, people wrote short adventures. I think I was the only one to leave any threads dangling. By the second cycle we were building on each others contributions to the game. This was where things got awesome. By the end you couldn't tell that the plot was written by more than one person.

2010-08-06, 11:46 PM
I'm currently in a random DM game. Each DM runs 1 (sometimes 2) sessions to finish off thieir mini-module. The DM's character sits out. Changout between DM's always happens in town, where characters can level & shop.

We have a few restrictions. DM needs to ensure no player exceeds wealth table +2 level (so a lvl10 can't have lvl12 wealth). This means all players keep track of their networth. All players get same portion of the treasure. The DM's character gets an appropraite share of the gold (but never items) & xp (was off training or something). All this is to avoid monty hall DM style and keeps the power progression smooth. Also avoids DM custom building something for himself.

Do I like it? Well, sorta. I get my DnD fix. Last campaign I did Shackled City for 1 year straight, so never played a character, kinda missed being a player. The storylines tend to be a bit weak, lots of overland at the moment. If we can stick it out to go Epic then I'll probably love it. We normally get DM burnout and bail about level 15 or so.

My advice? If you can get a good consistant DM who can run your 1-20 levels (or whatever your group feels is appropriate) and the DM doesn't get burnout, then stick with a single DM. If your DM is unreliable (working sucks) or burns out easily (ie you can never get your character beyond level 13) then the random DM is a good option.

2010-08-07, 12:33 AM
I had an idea awhile back for a game like this. It was going to be set on an interplanar ship. Each DM could then run an adventure on an utterly different plane, while their character stays belowdecks. Think of it like an episodic TV show.

2010-08-07, 12:49 AM
I've done this. I was a more serious DM, with focus on battle, problem-solving, and plots that (thankfully) were only derailed by the players. My co-DM did more relaxed, political, campaigns. We all had characters, and would take turns.

My rogue PC as DMPC served as Ms. Exposition a lot. The first chain was set in her hometown after the co-DM took us there in the previous one. Except my character was a wanted criminal. Basically, she explained a bit about the city and ran away, which is perfectly reasonable, considering there was a bounty on her, and she would be executed if she was found.

Then they got captured (which I had no plans for) and she broke them out with poison, Open Lock, and extensive knowledge of all the passageways beneath the city. Despite being LE and knowing full well it was about a 50-50 chance that she could DIE. Yes, it was Deus Ex Machina. But this can be useful.

Then it was down to the crypt where the necromancer was. She led them there and ran off again, threatening to slay them both in their sleep (well, trance, actually. Elves, both of them) if they didn't give her a fair share of the loot. They did, and we swapped roles, and went off to debate with a half-dragon dragon-breeder because we needed a dragon egg.

2010-08-07, 06:13 AM
There are four, I think, basic systems of running the game this way. One of the solutions is to assign an area, and corresponding NPCs, to each of the players/GMs, so that there's little chance of problems with "hey, that's my NPC!". Most common way is to let each player run their plot, which, with some earlier agreements about how major changes to the world can occur, works pretty well. Rotating GMs every session is probably not a good idea, unless each session is a self-contained adventure.

This works slightly worse in games where players have their own secrets, since GM should know about them.

2010-08-07, 06:17 AM
We used to do this - we had a general setting, and a couple of us regularly DMed, but we usually didn't run continuously with one DM. Generally we ran one scenario to its end for a couple of sessions (if it took that long), and then let someone else run a game.

It was very successful in building a big complex world. All those DMs brought their own ideas to the game, and those ideas got adopted into the whole. Between each DM's session, they had time to think up and develop a new adventure.
We had recurring villains and plots - we generally accepted that one DM's bad guy was off limits for another DM. No problem.

The White Knight
2010-08-07, 07:10 AM
My group was doing this for a short while. One of the other guys started the campaign as a tiny dungeon crawl from some printed module, then I picked things up when they got back to town after that. I fleshed out this magnificent town with tons of colourful NPCs, and the party just kept making plot hooks for themselves. It was awesome. But I got too invested in my town, and when he took over again, I found myself pining for the DM seat again.

When I was running sessions, I liked to retire my character to some mundane task in town while the others took care of business. This gave me more energy to focus on the main NPCs for the current story arc, and ensured there was no treasure favoritism or DMPC spotlighting. When the other guy was running sessions, his PC always did the most clobbering, and there always seemed to be something in the treasure that stood out as his.

We typically traded off at the end of story arcs; but if someone had to pick up before someone else's arc was complete, it usually meant a little side encounter that would introduce another arc. This was great, as it meant we didn't step on one another's adventures, and there were usually adventure hooks to spare.

Rule 1 = don't get too invested in ANYTHING if you're gonna hand over control and creative license to the whims of another.

Rule 2 = when you step up, have your character step down. You might not be a DMPC fiend, but you can be someone at your table may be.

Rule 3 = each DM should maintain their own adventure. This way there is less "hey, did you have any plans for...", and more adventure hooks to bite onto.

2010-08-07, 11:32 AM
Thanks for the input guys. I was thinking that rotating every session could be a nice fun exercise for the DMs, but I guess it could get disjointed and less interesting for the players if DMs don't stick around long enough to wrap up their plot.

As for DMPC, I agree that the DM's PC should sit out when that person is DMing. Treasure distribution shouldn't be too much of a problem I hope, but it seems like the most important thing is that all three of us (the DMs) have to sit down and agree on the exact parameters of how this would work. We especially have to agree about not getting too attached to our plots/NPCs. I think half the fun of this kind of game would be other DMs handling your plot/NPCs.

I really like the idea a setting that allows episodic adventures that don't have to be linked.

2010-08-07, 12:08 PM
I just got this idea, and I think it could be interesting.

It is interesting. We ran a campaign that way once.

Key things that made it work:

Cohesion - the party had a magic boat, so even though they were evil they all wanted to stick around (and keep their share of the boat)

DMing - the character played by this session's DM was always left on the boat. To guard it, see...

Good players/DMs - at one point I had a scam going against one of the players that I maintained through 3 DMs.

2010-08-07, 12:27 PM
I've done round robin DMing. It has a few benefits and a few drawbacks.


no one is stuck dming all the time. Everyone gets a chance to play.
You get a variety of dming styles.

Con: Since everyone is the DM, there's no final arbiter on rules questions. Either

solution: whoever is DMing decides the rules then and there. The DM's email each other after the session to carve a ruling in stone.

Con: adventures may take more than one night, switching dm's loose coherency.

solution: don't switch EVERY week. Switch after every adventure.

Con: DM NPC - Its hard to be the DM and your character at the same time. People may be tempted to rule favorably for them, or have the monsters attack someone else when they're low on HP.

solution: I prefer that if i'm dming my character is indisposed that week. Either they're serving in the army, in the middle of making a magic item, have been turned into a ferret, summoned to another plane on important business, bailing a family member out of jail etc.

2010-08-07, 01:28 PM
I did that with my group for a while, every session we had to make new characters because none of them wanted to start above level 1. I never want to do that ever again. :smallfurious:

Darius Rae
2010-08-07, 04:40 PM
I am actually planning an doing this starting next month. We are going to use a published campaign and switch DMs every chapter. There are only three of us playing so the DM will have his character in the game, but acting more in the background.

Basically, if the DM has the trap finder before that character can look for traps, one of the other players have to suggest it or that character has to ALWAYS check for traps. Any plot decisions will be made by the players while the DM can always say, "No, I don't think my character would find it appropriate to punch the dragon in the mouth." unless the character would do such a thing...