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Vindcara
2015-10-19, 09:32 AM
I am planning on starting up a d&d group, but none of the people I plan to invite who actually have roleplaying experience has the time to consistently DM, including me. So I was considering having us play a round robin style game where we all take turns DMing.

Does anyone have any tips on what kind of game or setting works best with this style of DMing?

GungHo
2015-10-19, 10:36 AM
I kind of do this, but it's just two of us that DM for a group of 5 players (so six people in core with occasional guests). We both take turns as main DM (so it's not DM and helper).

Essentially, he has one half of the world and I have the other. This keeps us from stepping on each other's toes. There are stories from "the other side" (all telephone gamed) and certain world-shaking things have reverberations, which can be fun to deal with from the "other side", but generally, we don't interact with each other's games. It also saves us time on world-building, because the cosmology is the cosmology and the world is the world, and the players don't need to remember different things. It's all going on at the same time, generally, as well, so the timeline doesn't get screwed with, either.

Other ways of doing this are DM and helper, having a shared character that the DMs both play, or doing completely different games. They all have their pluses and minuses, some of which are obvious and some of which are a little less obvious. We ended up doing what we did because we wanted to use the same system (Pathfinder) but have two different styles of DMing. The players like both games, but I have my competitive advantage and the DM has his, so we went with that.

Velaryon
2015-10-19, 10:44 AM
I did this briefly with two other friends (it was a small game). It works, though the game tends to be more episodic than a campaign run by a single DM for obvious reasons. As far as game systems, what works best will be determined by what you all are most familiar and comfortable with. If busy lives are an issue, then you'd probably want something that requires minimal prep time (so in other words, not 3.5 D&D).

We actually started our game as a one-shot, high level D&D game on a night when our regular game was canceled but the three of us really wanted to play. The guy who ran loves to run DMPCs and he's very good at avoiding the typical problems with that. As a result, when my other friend decided to continue the game, the first guy already had a character to play.

From there we each took turns, with our characters fading a little to the back when it was our turn to DM. We didn't coordinate on plot, so there wasn't much of an overarching story, though the church of Talos was a fairly regular antagonist.

My advice is just to choose a system that everyone who is going to take a turn at GMing knows how to run, and for everyone to have their own character who becomes an NPC when it's their turn to run. Don't worry too much about coordinating the story and let the adventures be episodic, and things should work out just fine.

Quertus
2015-10-19, 11:39 AM
I've seen it done several ways. This style lends itself better to episodic games than long-reaching campaigns - although, when a DM rotates back around, they sometimes bring back elements of their old adventure.

The biggest problem is when the DM continues to play their character, and favors their character. But, when the DM favors someone else's character, things can get tricky, too. IMO, the best game with rotating DMs (although it had its problems) I was in was also a "new characters enter at 1st level" game with *lots* of players. Since there was inherently no game balance, characters becoming slightly unbalanced due to DM favoritism was, well, the least of the imbalance. Of course, the most imbalanced (or, rather, the most powerful) character in that game was, AFAICT, never actually shown favoritism by any of the DMs - he was just a wonderful combination of the best build played by the most effective player. To help balance the party (OOC) / help optimize the party (IC), my character convinced the most powerful characters to give some of their most powerful items to the weakest characters.

If you've gamed with this group before, think about what problems you have already experienced, and how a rotating DM might exacerbate these problems. Think about how each DM's style differs, and whether this might cause any problems. Discuss these beforehand - or as they come up, depending on your style of play.

To make the game work... there are several options. You can work in a setting all the potential DMs know, work in a blank slate setting, or have the setting constantly change as the DM changes. Or, if you like thinking on your feet, one DM can just pick up where the last one left off (this is usually reserved for "and then the DM falls off the face of the earth", but can be done intentionally, if you like that style).

If your group likes having "mystery items", this can be a big problem with rotating DMs. Of course, so can recurring villains of the "continual harassment" type. It can be difficult for the DM to run them correctly without knowing more about them than the players should - at which point, you get a party that is composed more and more of (effectively) NPCs, because they can't realistically come up with new ideas about what they already OOC know about.

But, so long as you think through how you want to handle little things like this, and everyone agrees with (or at least is happy with) the outcome, there are lots of ways to run a game with a rotating DM.

Mark Hall
2015-10-19, 12:52 PM
While I wouldn't suggest the game per se*, Ars Magica uses "troupe style play" as a default, and has some good suggestions for doing so. The 4th edition core rulebook is free from Atlas Games (or was, last I checked), so might be something to check out.

*It's not a bad game, but a pretty specific one, where you're playing wizards in a semi-historical medieval Europe. The Line Director, last I checked, literally got his PhD in Medieval History following his interest in the game.

prufock
2015-10-19, 01:30 PM
It works, though the game tends to be more episodic than a campaign run by a single DM for obvious reasons.
I agree, and it's probably for the best. It works well with a West Marches/guild type of game, where each week is a new job, or new area to explore, starting from a home base each time. Players can re-use old characters or bring in new ones, and characters should always be of equal level. It's something I've been wanting to try for a while. Start small and build your world outwards.

The DM should never play a character while he's in the DM chair - any previous characters used by that person would not be involved in the current quest, not even as an NPC.

Arcane_Snowman
2015-10-19, 02:42 PM
While I wouldn't suggest the game per se*, Ars Magica uses "troupe style play" as a default, and has some good suggestions for doing so. The 4th edition core rulebook is free from Atlas Games (or was, last I checked), so might be something to check out.

*It's not a bad game, but a pretty specific one, where you're playing wizards in a semi-historical medieval Europe. The Line Director, last I checked, literally got his PhD in Medieval History following his interest in the game.
I'll expand a little bit upon this, because from a pure mechanics standpoint it'll allow you to do exactly what you want (like Mark said, it's very specific):
The group has a base of operations, the covenant, which is more or less a small town centered around them. From there they can stage adventures, and because of the importance and prevalence of downtime activity, you literally have to study and practice to get better at something, a mage who is not interested in the adventure, i.e DMing, can simply lock him or herself away in their lab whilst the others go out and everyone comes away with something.

Another game which directly encourages the round-robin style of DMing is Mystic Empyrean, which goes to great length to try and do the GM's work for you, having a huge list of random scenarios that you can simply roll on.