Sharing a chair Part 2: Who’s on First?

Well, I left this one for rather long but gaming has been a bit dry recently. And for reasons that cannot be avoided. So really, to return to my point about the joint chair.

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about sharing the chair in an actual game situation. I have revealed plans of a game to someone else and they have helped me, but those people had no connections with my players, and some of them had no connections with gaming even. But even so, GMing is all but built for a one-person show. Everything is built around the fact that there is a sole arbiter of the rules and story, with the players (hopefully) acting cooperatively as characters in it.

And as GMs, we’re used to the usual Saturday night headache. You need to do everything yourself, more or less, if you want everything done the way you want it. Bringing another person into this position can seem like too many cooks, if you look at it that way.

However, this campaign was conceived jointly. And joint it would be, even in the execution.

The Encounters

I’ve said this before for first time GMs, that the first encounter will be the slowest and the most awkward. I should have remembered this, but I didn’t. For all that it was a little awkward we did make clear dividing rules. We each had different monsters to run, and had a sort of communication behind the screen filled with code words and gestures. But the encounter went much longer than we anticipated.

I have to say this looking back: we need to plan more with the monsters, and that gre evident as we went along. We’ve split the monsters, as before, but as 4E focuses so much on combat that this needs attention too. Yes, we have a good solid story, but there’s more work needed here just for the sake of communication. By myself I can get away with winging it, but I can’t with another DM as he need to know what my plans are, and I his. And this is even when running different monsters.

We won’t be playing for a few weeks yet, but this needs to be addressed.

But I will say this: the last session we ran a character failed their Stealth check just as the Big Bad was stomping by so the players could have a good look at him. Two flesh golems, his body guards, started to pound where he was hiding. I have the impression that my co-DM just wanted to give the player a good pounding. But I said “Take him!”. And so the player, who always likes to do interesting stuff in the story, ended up being captured with the promise of interrogation and torture. End of session.

Problems do tend to get a bit bigger than that, though…

The same but not the same

There was definitely something lacking there, but I don’t know what. On the whole we worked together very well, but I think it could have been better for the simple reason that at times we were not on the same page. An example of this would have to have been the spiders encounter. It started slowly, insidiously, with the silence, then with one then two people disappearing and then finally the death from above.

Except it was all ruined by me asking if it was time to put my new spider minis on the table.

Okay, not entirely ruined maybe, but as we didn’t plan as much as we could have we weren’t on the same page.

Another time we had to have a quick emergency DM meeting right in the middle of the session just so we could be on the same page. And  this was about the architecture of the dungeon itself and where the various rooms led to.

There are advantages, though.


As a GM, I’ve talked to myself on more than one occasion when I play different NPCs. I go to some degree to differentiate between the two with my voice as well as choice of words and posture. It sounds strange, and I know I would never want to see a video of myself doing this, but it’s the best way to get the point across.

With another DM, I have that extra voice so we can have an actual conversation with another NPC. We agreed before then on which ones we were going to play, though it must be said that my co-DM is much, much better at doing NPCs in-character than I am.

And it worked even better that 80% of the first session was roleplaying.

Is it worth it?

So, after all that I can say it is worthwhile sharing a chair with another DM for an adventure. Make sure you plan the campaign together, story and encounters but they key here is communication. The DMs need to meet before and sometimes after each session so as they are both on the same page.

And a final word to players, if you have two DMs planning a campaign go out of the room and let them plan. You can’t have the free flow of ideas when you are forced to speak in code.


~ by katanageldar on March 24, 2011.

2 Responses to “Sharing a chair Part 2: Who’s on First?”

  1. That actually sounds kind of amazing and I really wish I had someone to possibly co-DM with. My first choice is playing a character I really want to see in action, though. hmmm

  2. I co-GM a Pulp campaign and everything you’ve written here sounds bang-on-target from my experience. I’m a little fortunate in that we started the planning and co-writing from the moment I took up the second chair in the campaign, which was floundering and looked like folding prior to that act in 2006. That said, the core of the campaign was created by my co-GM alone, and while we’ve expanded on his original vision since then, the core remains unchanged. So it’s not necessarily vital that the GMs co-create the campaign, but when one isn’t involved in that early process, he has to buy into the vision a little more completely than might otherwise be the case.

    At some point, I intend to write about our collaborative techniques at Campaign Mastery; and an awful lot of what I have to say will echo what you’ve said in this post. Good job.

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