Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Further multiple DM campaign thoughts...

I previously posted an example of a map for a four-DM campaign; but really one does not need such a map for a multiple referee situation.

You could easily enough have one "city" with multiple campaign megadungeons within walking distance (or within or below the city itself).

Now being an obsessive freak I fret about the continuity, territorial and conflict of interest concerns with multiple DMs running parties in the same city ("God damn it Jack!! I invented the Snails Pace Inn and it definitely does not serve mead or have sexy serving wenches; weren't you paying attention when I DMed last week you fucking hack!"), but solutions come to mind:

- the city is just a generic, faceless entity devoid of NPCs, adventure or features; all of the action takes place in the dungeons with players shopping from a list while "in town."

- Only the features invented by a particular DM are available when that DM runs a session ("I understand that you wish to buy spells off of your mentor, but he's on vacation...").

- the city is divided into sections a la post-WW II Berlin with the action taking place in the quarter that "belongs" to the DM running the session ("Four kings?!? What kind of city is this place?!?").

Now any of the above conceits doesn't preclude any of the DMs from introducing their wilderness sandbox to the north-west/ north-east/ south-east/ south-west of "Central City," but they do remove it from being an immediate concern of any of the DMs and allows folks to haul their butts to the dungeon.


  1. I like the idea a great deal. When I was in high school, we had the idea that everybody could 'have' a part of a map... and then players could wander from area to area and different DMs would take charge. I was pretty hepped about the plan but after drawing the initial map and attempting to get the thing going, it went no where.
    But I think the concept is sound.

  2. my friends and I tried this once with an old campaign, then I had another kid and dropped gaming for awhile...

    Been toying with the idea again, originally we had a west marches inspired campaign centered around a interplanar trading hub, with all the pcs in the campaign as low level members of a large guild based in several settlements.

    The idea was that we would have one guild base per DM each of which were connected via portal, so player characters could begin the game session at whichever base the DM was in charge of.

  3. I dig it. Let me move to Canada so it can be a 5 DM campaign.

    wv: dogous, when something has the quality of a dog. "Those dogous dudes? They were kobolds."

  4. I like Aberrant Hive Mind's idea here, and it was something I'd suggest myself. Give each DM a certain area to run. Where the real problem comes in is back in the city. Some questions that are important here are:

    1. How important is the city to the adventure? Are their NPCs moving to take over the city? A thieves guild trying to assassinate an important figure, etc.

    2. If the city does have some significance, then give each DM a certain number of NPCs to control in the background and talk with one another on how they are working and moving against each other. Obviously meta-gaming becomes an issue here, but understandings can be made.

    3. Give each DM certain establishments in the city and have the PCs frequent only those establishments when they are in the city. For example, you don't have to worry about DM 2 screwing up the Snails Pace Inn if he has his own inn to run for the PCs to seek rest, rumors, etc. I'm not talking dividing the city up with walls or anything, just give each DM his own place in the city to run to avoid inconsistencies and maintain continuity.

    I've personally never been a huge fan of multiple DMs running the same campaign, but the sandbox model actually facilitates the concept quite well especially when each DM has his own site/location to run. If it can be done effectively, the sandbox is definitely the go-to model. Good luck!

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  6. I've actually been DMing games where me and a good buddy of mine monitor the game at the same time. We work out everything beforehand and it has turned out wonderfully.

    When we play I will usually be more in charge of overarching plot and PC to NPC relations. On the other hand, the second DM deals with more of the fast paced combat/ dungeon crawls, with much more left up to chance. Let's say that our party wants to explore some haunted ruins. Some of the party wants to gather backstory in the nearby town while some want to do some head-first hacking and slashing. Our party will get split up between us two DMs. We have two tables where we play so it always works out. We prevent each group from talking to one another for the most part (with exceptions like if a party member has the ability to use telepathy, or they want to know something that is not game relevant), but other than that, they are on their own until they meet up again.

    And when we are together, it makes things really smooth. I can describe monsters quickly while my cohort draws out a combat map and makes some quick tables/ marks up wounds.

    The whole two DM situation has one big issue though, when we come to some location that we are in disagreement on it can get confusing or lead to argument between Game Masters. I remember one time it was the very beginning of the game and the party found itself in an encounter my friend and I had not agreed on. He thought it would be good "team building" so he wanted the encounter to take place in an no-exit room that would only open when the monster was killed. I had said their foe was far too powerful and not giving them a method of escape would lead to them being butchered. So when we got to that room in the dungeon, things went south very quickly, to the point there was only 2 of the 8 party members left alive. One succeeded a spot check, and without permission (and I will admit I was out of line) I took the room the other DM had set up and allowed a method of escape via secret exit door. This led to some annoyed conversation between us for the rest of the session, and the PC's becoming weary of our bickering.

    So if that situation can be circumvented, I am totally in support of DMing with multiple DMs at the same time (we even did a game where there were 4 DMs and 1 PC, and it led to the most lush environment you could ever imagine)

  7. Some collective pre-campaign prep (i.e. talking about it at a bar) or a wiki where people offer ideas for mooting collectively might work. Focusing different parties on different social strata or some other cultural distinction might add another layer of insulation.

    Alternately, if the world was just very exception-focused, you could simply state that local encounters or monsters are not indicative of large-scale operations. So instead of a Thieves' Guild, they're just dealing with two different fantasy mafias in each campaign.

  8. There's no (in game) problem that can't be solved through the judicious use of cramming and mashing.