Sharing a chair Part 1: The Meeting of Minds
Well, I’ve mentioned it before, even done it on a previous occasion, but now I’m going to address it fully. What am I talking about? Co-DMing.
I’ve done it once, no three times so far, and I am planning to do it next session, and then after that until the characters get to level 14.
Then, it’s back to flying solo.
It’s been an interesting experience, and probably explains why I am more willing to run a D&D game over a Star Wars one right now.
I’m going to address this from three points of view. Firstly, there were my own motivations, then the planning aspect and finally actually running the game. In a second post (my first two-parter for quite some time) I’ll look at the actual experience of running the game. As it’s very interesting once you have the boundaries in place…sort of.
In the beginning
One thing that was definitely to my advantage with co-DMing is that we were pretty much in-synch with the sort of games we wanted to run: a strong emphasis on story. However, it does need to be said that I came to him with the skeleton of an idea that I wanted developed. I could have run this by myself, and I was willing to, however I doubt that it would have been as interesting as it would have been had I not had his contributions. Particularly the ending, as I only had the middle sketched out where it was going to extend to the next adventure.
So, I outlined what I had in mind, I gave a few details that I knew had to be in there to establish the connections, and I pointed out my unanswered questions. We also had to incorporate a way for his character to get back into the game, as I mentioned earlier. After that, no I lie we statted up the boss first as we couldn’t wait, but after we statteds up the boss we sat down and settled the story for us. What the current situation was with our setting, how it got to be that way, what was being done about it now and what had been done about it in the past. We also had to populate the town of Ironmere with some influential NPCs, though I have to confess we ran a little short and had to make up some names on the spot. But players are players.
We then went in to the logistics itself of the Dwarven city of Undermere. How it more or less works, and more importantly how the players actually get underneath the lake. The system of canal locks, which I had nothing whatsoever to do with other than agree it was a good idea, were a very ingenious puzzle and perhaps the first real puzzle we’ve had.
It was only then we had about half an hour left that we started planning the encounters. The ones we wanted the players to fight in, and ones that were more insidious (but the players ended up fighting anyway). Those didn’t seem as important as the story, and we didn’t even have all of them planned. Just enough to get us through the first three sessions so we had something to put on the table.
I think it was several weeks later when we had the last encounters planned, as I realised that we’d omitted some crucial theme elements from the adventure. But they’re settled now and they look to be the most ambitious thing I have done to date yet.
Planning for this campaign has definitely been an eye opener, in several ways.
Firstly, while I do my best to incorporate my players ideas into the story, I am still the final authority on what gets done. If an idea that gets proposed doesn’t fit, it’ll usually get shelved or incorporated in some way to fit with everything else that goes on. Working with the person, neither working against them or letting them take over the game. With another DM, they have as much say into what goes into the game as you do so it’s essential that you get along and are both on exactly the same page as to what game you want to have. I do need to say this, though: I do have slightly more authority in terms of story than the other DM for the simple reason that I know how it is all connected to the campaign that he will eventually play in. But that’s not saying much as I did come to him with the idea in the first place. It will be interesting if we do this again and create an entire campaign from the ground up.
And secondly, I’ve gotten far more ideas for this campaign than I ever would have on my own for the simple reason that I had someone else along for the ride with me. I found that both of us could bring two ideas together to make something new as well as we knew just exactly how far to go before stopping ourselves.
All in all, it’s been an experience.